In recent years, the neighborhood surrounding Istanbul’s Fatih Mosque looked like an ordinary Turkish street. Since then, the area has transformed itself into a piece of Syria; street signs are written in Arabic, and refugees inhabit nearby houses. An employee at a cafe describes his surroundings; "We've got Syrian supermarkets, Syrian restaurants — just like back home. I haven't even applied for a Turkish ID card. If peace comes to Syria, I'll go home tomorrow."
Some Turkish residents - who have moved elsewhere following the influx of refugees - have not welcomed this change. Instead, they view the new residents as “ignorant,” “homeless,” and “low-class.” In Turkey, xenophobia towards Syrians has two main roots. First, only 14,000 of the 3 million refugees in the country have work permits. The growing informal sector is seen as harmful to the government, and many workers worry about increased competition once these Syrians obtain proper licenses. Second, Syrians tend to lean towards more conservative ideals. Although most Syrians in Turkey cannot vote, fundamental differences between conservative refugees and more secular Turks have caused political rifts. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has attempted to incorporate the Syrian population into the Turkish economy through employment opportunities, but staunch opposition has brought these initiatives to a halt.
Not all cities are opposed to hosting part of the refugee population. Last December, a Syrian carpenter named Mohammed accidentally cut off two fingers while distracted by the sound of a storm. He was rushed to a hospital in Portland, where further examinations uncovered a brain tumor. The doctors attributed his condition to post-traumatic stress, a disorder that affects many populations escaping violence. Both he and his wife, who delivered a child less than 2 months ago, were unable to work. The couple has received donations, financial support, and medical assistance from members of the neighborhood for months after the injury. Despite the community’s kindness, the pair fears that issues specifically affecting Americans will begin to take precedence over the refugee crisis. Please visit their Go Fund Me site to read more about their story.
Duin, Steve. “A new world, and a new crisis, for Syrian refugees.” OregonLive.com, OregonLive.com, 18 Aug. 2017, www.oregonlive.com/opinion/index.ssf/2017/08/steve_duin_a_new_world_and_a_n.html. Accessed 21 Aug. 2017.
Frayer, Lauren. “For Syrian Refugees In Turkey, A Long Road To Regular Employment.” NPR, NPR, 14 Aug. 2017, www.npr.org/sections/parallels/2017/08/14/543471407/for-syrian-refugees-in-turkey-a-long-road-to-regular-employment. Accessed 21 Aug. 2017.