Beatrix Senoner and Can Eminoğlu | 12 November 2021
Khaled is a 28-year-old Syrian who is living with his family in Istanbul, Turkey. He fled Syria six years ago, after his home was hit by a bomb – a moment that changed his life forever. With the help of UNHCR and its partner Association for Solidarity with Asylum Seekers and Migrants (ASAM), Khaled received vital protection assistance, which helped him and his family get back on their feet. The support provided to Khaled and his family was made possible thanks to funding from the European Union and other donors.
When Khaled talks about his family, his face lights up. “I am the father of two young daughters. My first daughter is one and a half years old, and the youngest one was born only two months ago,” he says. “I am very lucky to have them.”
Khaled lives with his wife, their children and his parents in a small apartment in Istanbul. To support the family of six, he works as a salesperson in a shop that sells hygiene products in his neighbourhood. “In Syria, I went to university, and I also used to work as a tailor,” he explains. “Unfortunately, due to my poor eyesight, I cannot carry out this work anymore.” Khaled’s eyes were injured when a bomb struck his home during the conflict in Syria. “Because of this terrible incident, I lost my only brother. I got injured, and so did my mother,” he says.
After fleeing to Turkey, Khaled approached UNHCR’s partner ASAM for help. “I received a lot of assistance,” he notes. “For example, they helped me receive treatment for my visual impairment, including the glasses I am wearing today, which help me see better.”
Along the way, Khaled’s family had to overcome a series of challenges. When Khaled’s wife was expecting their first child, she experienced complications during the pregnancy, which put mother and daughter at serious risk. “Both of them were in a critical condition and needed specialized medical help, which we were not able to receive at their current hospital,” Khaled explains. With support from UNHCR’s partner, Khaled’s wife and baby were transferred to a hospital that could offer them the urgent treatment they needed. “I am very relieved that they could receive the medical care they needed,” says Khaled. “Due to the difficult pregnancy and birth, our doctor expressed concerns that our daughter might possibly experience some long-term consequences, but so far, she seems to be doing well, and my wife has recovered too.”
The COVID-19 pandemic also impacted Khaled and his family. At the height of the pandemic, most shops had to close and people were required to stay at home during the lockdown periods, which affected the family’s livelihood. “This was an additional challenge,” Khaled recalls. “Fortunately, during the lockdowns, a member from ASAM came by our door to check on us and our newborn baby and helped with much-needed food parcels, baby diapers, and other hygiene products.”
Khaled also received support for his parents when they joined him in Turkey. “My mother has chronic health problems, in addition to the injuries that were inflicted on her by the blast in our home in Syria,” Khaled explains. “After we received support to register my parents in Turkey, their psychological and social situation improved significantly, and so did the mood in our house.”
“Do not stop, always look ahead and strive for a better life.”
Although life has thrown many obstacles at Khaled and his family, they persevered. “Persons fleeing their country should not think that their lives are over, they should not give up,” Khaled stresses with determination. “Look at me: some time ago, my family’s situation was fragile: my wife had pregnancy complications, I was affected by my eye injuries, my mother suffered from health issues, and we were struck by a pandemic, on top of all of this,” Khaled points out. “But we carried on and because of this, our situation gradually got better. Today, I have many things to be thankful for. I have two children, I have a job, and my mother’s health is also slowly but steadily improving. I am optimistic about the future.” he says. “My message to all other people who may be in a similar situation is: Do not stop, always look ahead and strive for a better life. Remember, life is never linear. It does not stop, it goes on.”