Interview by Can Eminoğlu | 9 November 2020
“My name is Amr Ajlouni, a 33-year-old Syrian originated from Damascus, Syria. In 2015, I fled Syria to Turkey and ever since, I have been living in Gaziantep. Currently, I own a media company and I am working as a videographer and movie director. Having a career in directing has always been my dream. Therefore, I am very much happy to run a business in Turkey which I long dreamed of.
Sometime after my arrival in Turkey, I started working for the American Bar Association as a communication and outreach officer. This employment lasted for two years. In this period, I tried to participate in as many workshops as possible on videography and directing. By attending these workshops, I was aiming to learn new approaches in the film industry. In 2017, I was looking for trainings to learn more on entrepreneurship as I wanted to establish my own company to work in film industry in Turkey. In the same year, one of my friends informed me about the availability of IMECE program by UNHCR’s partner, Habitat. Since this programme included training and a boot camp on entrepreneurship, I started with a 2-day training in Gaziantep on business models, business administration and entrepreneurship. At the end of the training, along with some 100 other participants, we competed at the bootcamp to come up with the most creative entrepreneurship ideas. My idea was about launching an online free film making platform for Syrians to learn more on cinematography by using one of the business models that I learnt during the training. My idea was selected as one of the 15 most creative ideas and I was awarded with a grant with which I was able to buy some essential professional equipment. Shortly after receiving the grant, I established my own media production company in Gaziantep. Currently, I employ nine Syrian and Turkish freelance videographers to deliver photography, videography and media production services. I also give trainings to customers on cinematography and directing.
I believe that movie production is a great tool to promote social responsibility. With my customers, we recently completed a movie in Arabic and Turkish to raise awareness on violence against children, gender equality, woman rights and child marriages. We will share the movie in the upcoming months.
The business environment in Turkey is quite lively. In the future, I aim to expand my business by opening new offices in Istanbul and Şanlıurfa. One of my career goals is to take part in the development of Turkey’s cinematography and videography sector. In the future, I also dream of participating in the Cannes Film Festival and Antalya International Film Festival with the movies that I produce and direct.
Lastly, I would like to highlight that the grant and the training I received as part of this programme were the biggest motivation and encouragement for me to establish my own business. Thanks to this programme, currently, I do not only have a sustainable income but also employ several people from both the refugee and host communities. Throughout the trainings and the boot camp, I also had the opportunity to build a network, which I am still connected to. Being a part of such programmes gives refugees a chance to learn, to test their potential, to establish networks and to make invaluable experiences. Therefore, it is very important for refugees to join such programmes in the future to become successful entrepreneurs, economically well-off and establish good relationships with the host community members.”
UNHCR is thankful for the support of the Republic of Turkey, the European Union and the Directorate General of Migration Management, which helped IMECE programme to be initiated within the scope of ‘Supporting the National Institutions in Turkey to Mitigate the Impact of the Syrian Refugee Crisis’ project. With programmes like these, refugees can work to build a bright future for themselves.
‘Supporting the National Institutions in Turkey to Mitigate the Impact of the Syrian Refugee Crisis’ project was co-financed by the European Union and the Republic of Turkey, coordinated by Directorate General of Migration Management and implemented by UNHCR between 1 September 2016 and 31 December 2019. The project realized various activities to strengthen social cohesion between Syrians and host community members in Turkey, to increase the economic and social resilience of the communities and the capacity of public authorities in Turkey.
 IMECE was a livelihoods program targeting employment, entrepreneurship skills and social inclusion implemented by one the partners of UNHCR, Habitat. This program was implemented as part of the ‘Supporting the National Institutions in Turkey to Mitigate the Impact of the Syrian Refugee Crisis’ project which was co-financed by the European Union and the Republic of Turkey, coordinated by Directorate General of Migration Management and implemented by UNHCR.
*The photo was taken before COVID-19 situation in Turkey.