Obama welcomes Syrian scientist, a refugee from Istanbul

Obama welcomes Syrian scientist, a refugee from Istanbul

Belgin Akaltan - belgin.akaltan@hdn.com.tr
Obama welcomes Syrian scientist, a refugee from Istanbul

Photo Credit: Humans of New York (HONY) Facebook Page

Dear Mr. Barack Obama, 

It is such a romantic gesture that you have embraced the unnamed Syrian “scientist” (Oh, wait, he is named now, Refaai Hamo) and have welcomed him and his family into your country. 

Somehow Turkey is never good for anyone, Mr. Obama. We cannot offer the circumstances your country is offering to him. It is such a happy-ending story that he now is settling in suburban Oakland County, in Michigan I guess. 

Don’t get me wrong, sir, I’m not complaining. I love my country and I have no wish to migrate to the U.S.

How can I explain it, Mr. Obama? I mean, of course you can understand it but the average American would have difficulty understanding. 

In Turkey, we have around 2 million Syrian refugees. They have been coming since the beginning of the conflict in 2012. We never had the time or the system (or the wit) to count them. We opened our borders and they came pouring in. We are hospitable people. But I’m talking about 2 million, sir, TWO million. 

In my home city, Istanbul, it is estimated that there are 330,000 Syrian refugees who all need accommodation, food, health care, education, employment, legal counseling, etc., the list is long… Not that we have solved all these issues for our own resident citizens…

You wrote last week on Humans of New York’s (HONY) Facebook page, Mr. Obama, commenting on the Syrian scientist’s post, “As a husband and a father, I cannot even begin to imagine the loss you’ve endured… I know that the great people of Michigan will embrace you with the compassion and support you deserve.”

Believe me, Mr. Obama, there is enough compassion and support here also, but we have to divide it by 2 million. The people of Istanbul are great also, but we have to divide our greatness by 330,000. 

As a mother and as a wife, just as you said, I cannot even begin to imagine his loss… But I bet I can find, in about one hour, life stories and war experiences that are 10 times more painful, more bitter and more inhuman; families that have suffered 10 times more. 

I am not trying to compare pain here. But Mr. Obama, the reality here is that when he complains he was turned down by the hospital five times, it is not because we lack compassion and support for him or we think that he does not deserve it. It is because this is all we have, divided by 2 million. 

He also complains he was not given a job. Oh, dear scientist, I can send you the statistics of unemployed young people in Turkey. 

One American writer referred to him as a “shoeless” scientist. Yes, he does not have shoes in the photo but this is what we do here. Shoes are taken off at the door in Turkish homes. That’s why he is shoeless. The custom is debatable but this is just normal for an average Turkish home. I mean this is how far you are from the realities of this place. 

Dear Mr. Obama,

I am wondering if you could take a few more from here. There are beggars on the streets; there are small children wiping the windows of cars for a tip, dangerously exposing themselves to accidents. There are reports of prostitution gangs buying young girls from Syrian families. There are girls sold to “Turkish husbands” to become their “second, third wife.” There are unreported rape incidents at refugee camps. 

Yes, you have provided shelter to a sick scientist, but please take some of the “nonscientific” ones as well. It is not really like picking a pet for your family. Of course Mr. Hamo looks nice. His family also looks very nice. I would like to have them as my neighbors. 

Why don’t you take a Yazidi woman and her children, Mr. Obama? Yazidis are not Muslims and they are not Christians. That’s why they are forgotten; nobody is helping them. 

My Turkish-American colleague sitting next to me told me, when I asked her, there are 50 American states. If each state accommodates 10 families each, it would make 500 families; if one family is an average of five people, it would mean 2,500 less people for us. Make it 3,000. Make it 30,000. We will still have 300,000 in Istanbul… 

You may not have the funds for so many families, but, you know, we don’t either. 

If you ask us why we have come to this point, I would say it is a very smart question. But I cannot discuss it with you here because of the free media environment in Turkey. 

Good luck to you, sir, with your Syrian scientist, his lovely daughter and his wonderful son. I am sure he will fit right in.

Good luck to us also with the beggars, thieves, criminals, extremists, rapists, child sellers and buyers and of course, the majority of hundreds of thousands of proud, innocent, normal families who are in this unbearable situation because of wrong political decisions. They fit right in here also.