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Turkey is both a destination and major crossroads for refugees from Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Sudan and Somalia who are hoping to reach Europe or awaiting resettlement. (Jesuit Refugee Service)

(Ankara) January 8, 2013 — In the Middle East and North Africa, Jesuit Refugee Service works predominantly with urban refugees. The first projects were initially established in 2008 in response to the high number of Iraqi refugees in Syria and Jordan. These two countries hosted the majority of Iraqi refugees, who make up the second largest group under UNHCR responsibility worldwide at an estimated 1.8 million.

In 2009 JRS began work in Turkey, in agreement with a local non-governmental organization: the KADER-Chaldean Assyrian Humanitarian Organisation. Turkey is both a destination and major crossroads for refugees from Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Sudan and Somalia who are hoping to reach Europe or awaiting resettlement. 

Three refugees from Iraq, who are now living in Turkey, share their journey with us below:


I come from Iraq. I was working for a trade company based in the Emirates; I fled due to the situation in Iraq, and I stayed in the Emirates for five years. I was encouraged to go back to Iraq since the situation was supposed to improve.

Once I went back I opened an exchange office and shortly after I started running my business I was asked for money … or my life would be in danger. I decided to close that business in order to be left in peace, but unfortunately it was not a solution. My exchange office was blown up and started feeling that the situation is worse than before me going to the Emirates. 

About a year and a half ago, I got a ticket and came to Turkey. Once I arrived I realized that the situation is actually very difficult: I felt like not much attention was given to my case and the way I was treated was also not very pleasant. 

I asked about NGOs to help me and was told me about KADER—JRS. I went there and asked for Turkish classes. I was told that these classes are full and I cannot attend it now. I went back home and was very sad because I felt very lonely I just wanted a company and learn Turkish language since it is very important while living here. Now KADER—JRS came to visit me …


I am originally from Iraq. I came to Turkey from Syria when I was 15. Two times in Iraq some militia groups tried to kidnap me. I was lucky, the Iraqi army was stationed where my family was living. The soldiers saved my life and they helped me to escape. After these incidents my father decided that I should leave Iraq and go to Syria since the language is the same, and it is close to our culture and to our homeland of Iraq.

We also heard about some job opportunities in Syria. I stayed in Syria, in Damascus from 2004 until February 2012. I left there since the situation was becoming very bad for Iraqis. The local NGOs seem to forget that it was already our second war and they were serving mainly internally displaced Syrian people.

When war started in Syria, militia and Syrian security stared asking for money in exchange for security … because of that I left Syria and came to Turkey. I hope to live here in peace but what I face here are many difficulties. The language, the work situation — there are no work possibilities  — and finally, I was already in the resettlement process in Syria, but here nobody says anything about the process and if I would have chances to go to the USA. My sister has been in the United States for three years.


I am an Iraqi who came to Turkey in January 2011. In Iraq I was, as everybody else, watched heavily. As any young man, I like to go out and enjoy life. Unfortunately that was against the rules of Islamic militia. I did not see myself living like a normal human being in my own country so I decide to flee. 

First I went to Greece. I stayed there almost two years but the situation over there was very bad: no help, difficult to learn language, no work, very bad economic situation; so I thought maybe situation in Iraq is better as the news were broadcasting… I went back but again same the same things.

I was thinking to stay in Iraq, since my family was there and I thought I should stay in my country since my experience in Greece was very difficult. One day I came back home and heard on the street a lot of army and police activity and I asked what is happening. I was told that my father was killed and also my nephew, who was only three years old.

Again I started having feelings that I cannot live in Iraq. Also, my family was saying to me that the killers are after me, and that my father was killed because they wanted me. It became very difficult for me to cope with all the thoughts and responsibilities.

I decided to leave and came to Turkey. When I came I felt like it was in Greece: no work, no language. The only NGO that tried to help me is KADER-JRS, with some grocery coupons and clothing. 

All I hope for is to live in peace, without feeling that somebody is after me to try to catch me. I want to live like a normal young man. I am only 36 years old.

You can help support Jesuit Refugee Service efforts to aid urban refugees.


 • Urban refugees in Turkey face daunting challenges

 • Deadly winter looms for Afghan refugees in Turkey

 • Jesuit Refugee Service in the Middle East and North Africa

Testimonies compiled by Jesuit Refugee Service staff in Turkey and edited by Christian Fuchs at Jesuit Refugee Service/USA

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