Her years in Turkey as a refugee thaught her that ‘it is really difficult for a Syrian to find a job here’. “In may places they didn’t pay me. And if they get to know that you are Syrian they don’t want to work with you anymore”.
In September 2012 she escaped the war in her country with her mom and dad. Her oldest brother lives in Saudi Arabia. Her younger brother was in Lebanon and joined his family in Turkey three years ago.
Shahed was not able to graduate from high school as she had to leave her war-torn country before her final exams. Before she tried to restart her education in Turkey she lived for one-and-a-half years in Egypt.
In Istanbul she tried for three consecutive years to enter a Turkish high school. “In the third year, during the entrance exam for Syrians, I missed only 0.5 points, that’s two questions! And I was like ‘that’s it! I want to start working’.
She heard about the program ‘From Refugee to Employee’ by Dutch NGO United Work in Istanbul and contacted them. “They found me a job here in Galata at the Turkish online wedding marketplace Düğün (Wedding). I work here now for two months at the telesales department. Here I feel happy. I call to Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and the United Arab Emirates. As I lived in Egypt and was with my brother for two months in Saudi Arabia I am familiar with their different Arabic accents too. So that helps”.
Düğün is Turkey’s dominant online wedding marketplace where young couples can connect with numerous dress shops, restaurants, photographers, bands, hotels, juwelers, hair dressers, lingerieshops. In 2015 Düğün opened an Arabic-language site called Zafaf.net (Wedding). They have expanded into a dozen countries.
“Our star market is Saudi Arabia”, CEO Emek Kirbiyik says. “Every year there are 160,000 weddings in Saudi Arabia. 25 Percent of them used our platform. We have at the moment a sales team of 4 in Saudi Arabia”.
United Work didn’t only give Shahed an opportunity to get a legal job and a work permit. Mr. Kirbiyik doesn’t hide his enthusiasm either. “United Work helps us in a super way to find proper Syrian workers”.