Although Najaa is eager to work to support her family, she is only offered employment if she removes her hijab.
Najaa Bazaraa, 33, fled Aleppo Syria in 2013 with her husband and family and came to Cyprus in search of a safe and normal life. With her brother already in Cyprus, they took the decision to flee when the war threatened their lives. “Our house was shelled, we had no water, electricity, but when my husband nearly lost his life, twice by the snipers in the area, I decided that we had to save our children’s lives and future.”
They live in Tala, a village near Pafos, and they strive hard to make ends meet. Without work and welfare support the family depends on charitable organisations and caring individuals to cover their essential needs. Due to health problems her husband cannot work – only occasionally – and Najaa, no matter how hard she tries, has not succeeded to find a job so far. “I have been referred to a number of jobs by the Labour Department, but the employers don’t accept me unless I remove my hijab. These are jobs mainly in restaurants for cleaning and washing dishes,” she says.
Najaa Bazaraa, 33, fled Aleppo, Syria in 2013 with her husband and family and came to Cyprus seeking a safe and normal life. © UNHCR Cyprus/Sebastian Rich
The family lives in a village with caring neighbours, but she feels that the family’s future in Cyprus is precarious without employment prospects and legal stability. Despite the subsidiary protection status the family has acquired in Cyprus, Najaa lives constantly in fear that they will be sent back to Syria. Yet, her children attend the public school and speak Greek. “If you ask them, they will say Cyprus is their home now. My daughter was born in Cyprus and my other children were very young when we first came.”
Najaa misses her home, her country as it used to be before the war. “I would definitely go back to Syria if the country will be safe again.” But after 10 years of war she hardly believes that Syria will ever be the same again.