ANKARA, Turkey, November 2014 – It is clear the group of Syrian and Turkish children gathered at this training session in Ankara already know a lot about their subject. Hands rise swiftly in response to the first question about child rights.
One of the Syrian students sitting in the front row and raising her hand enthusiastically is Aysha. She lists child rights to the best of her knowledge: learning, playing, resting, living healthily and living in security in a safe country.
Aysha is one of 20 Syrian and 20 Turkish students who met in Ankara this month to attend the ‘Social Adaptation and Cohabitation Training’ held by UNICEF’s protection team. Other participants included representatives from the Ministry of Family and Social Policies.
14-year old Aysha travelled from Kahramanmaraş to take part in the training with her teachers. Aysha and her family fled Syria two years ago for a more peaceful life in Turkey. The 7th grader’s favorite subjects are math and science. She wants to be a pediatrician when she grows up, but in the meantime she wants to help her friends understand their rights as children.
Aysha says, “I would like to become a trainer to help my friends. I can help my Syrian friends who cannot speak Turkish. I would really like to teach them about child rights.”
Burak is from Şanlıurfa, and is a student from the Turkish contingent. The 17-year-old told the conference he has worked with the Child Rights Committee for five years and was elected to the Advisory Committee two years ago to help solve problems of education, accommodation and nutrition among Syrian children. He hopes this training session will help extend the Committee’s work to other cities in Turkey.
Child labor and accommodation problems
“I visited camps many times,” said Burak. “War is engraved in the subconscious of even the smallest children. They have become somewhat aggressive, so UN agencies and other groups are providing psychosocial support activities, including UNICEF at their Child Friendly Spaces and our friends from Child Rights Committee of Turkey. Children are also being forced to work under harsh conditions for very little money. And accommodation for families is another significant problem.”
Severine Jacomy Vite, Chief of the Child Protection Unit at UNICEF Turkey, says every child has the right to be part of decision making processes. He said, “UNICEF protects children no matter where they are and brings children together from different cultures to share different experiences together. With this training study groups shall be formed and Syrian and Turkish children will be provided with the opportunity to develop projects together.”
Ahmet Okur, the Deputy General Director for Child Services of the Ministry of Family and Social Policies made special mention of the Convention on Child Rights for Turkey.
Okur also mentioned that while his Ministry had been providing activities inside the camps, the attention will now turn to urban refugees. He said, “It is an obvious necessity to organize activities outside the camps. For this reason, the results of this training session will serve as a guiding light for us.”