By Ayberk Yurtsever
ANKARA, Turkey, February 2014– The conflict in Syria is already leaving its mark on Syrian children who have been forced to take refuge in neighbouring countries. Many youngsters carry frightening memories, but for others the scars are physical.
Eight-year old Jumana is one of those children. A deep mark below her left eye is a reminder of the shrapnel which hit her during the fighting in her home town of Jarabulus. She will wear the scar of war for the rest of her life, but says bravely, “I am lucky to have not lost my eye.”
When asked what she hopes to be when she grows up, both eyes sparkle. If she is able to go to school, she says she wants to be a doctor. She hasn’t forgotten the medics who treated her when she was injured.
We met Jumana and her family on a recent trip to assess the needs of children in the Dikmen Valley area of Ankara. Jumana, her mother and six siblings fled Syria and now live in a makeshift shack in the area. Her father died in the conflict. Because of the fighting Jumana wasn’t able to go to school in Syria. Now, like the other members of her family, she helps to earn a living by collecting waste paper. Each of them can make up to 4 dollars a day.
Five other Syrian families have also set up home in the same area. For years the Dikmen Valley was a squatter settlement, but has since been modernized, and is now a well-to-do district. Most of the old shanty-town houses have been demolished, but a few are still standing and have become homes once again – for families fleeing from Syria.
An estimated 600,000 Syrians are trying to survive in towns and cities in Turkey, in addition to more than 200,000 Syrians living in camps. Those lucky enough to find employment are working in the most difficult and lowest-paid jobs. It is a difficult life – especially for an eight year-old girl who dreams of becoming a doctor.