Since the influx of Syrian refugees started in 2012 nearly 20,000 Syrians have settled down in Sultanbeyli, a conservative working class suburb with a population of more than 300,000.
Hairdresser Ghadir is 37 years old and came four years ago from Aleppo to Turkey with her mother, husband and two kids. Her youngest boy, Fajir (Morning), was born in Istanbul and is now one and a half years old.
“My Turkish is basic and I didn’t know the Turkish culture. Now it is better. I had no jobs here in Istanbul. For five months I stayed at home. Then I decided to start my hair and beauty salon. As you see, we have a nice collection of bridal gowns as well. Not for sale. All of them are for rent. In the past we had bought gold from the money we saved. With that gold, plus money from friends who wanted to help me, I started this business. That is now three years ago”.
United Work, a reintegration and placement services NGO, funded by the Dutch Government aiming to support Syrian refugees being employed in Turkey, has an office in Sultanbeyli as well. On the top floor of a multifunctional community center organized by the Refugees Assistance and Solidarity Association.
“I heard from friends that United Work had an office there”, Ghadir says. Abdullah Bakira (23) from Damascus, a Syrian refugee himself, is the coordinator at the United Work office here in Sultanbeyli. “Everybody knows him”, Ghadir says smiling. “He helped me with the Turkish documents to make my business legal. He also was in charge of the procedure to get me a work permit”.
Her husband works in a textile factory in Istanbul, six days a week. “My beauty salon is open seven days a week. I manage because two of my kids are in school and my youngest is with my mother. She takes care of the children when I’m at work”.
She doesn’t want to go back to Syria. “Turkey is much more developed. Also the education is better. We want to apply for Turkish citizenship”.