Syrians building a life in Turkey

Syrians building a life in Turkey

ISTANBUL - Hürriyet
Syrians building a life in Turkey

The staff at the Istanbul-based Sout Raya radio station say they especially want to draw attention to the humanitarian plight of ordinary Syrians. Hürriyet photo, Murat ŞAKA

Syrian refugees that have escaped the conflagration in their homeland have been building a new life in Turkey, even setting up their own media organs that include radio stations and newspapers.

A group of Syrian journalist and broadcasters, who had to escape from Syria after the uprising, have created a radio station in Istanbul called “Sout Raya” (The sound of Raya). The station is one of five established by Syrian refugees in Turkey. Almost all of the employees were either jailed or allegedly tortured by the security forces of the Syrian government. 

Based in a large office in the business district of Levent, the radio station has been broadcasting via the Internet for two weeks now. The journalists hope to reach listeners in Syria, Turkey and Jordan by acquiring an FM frequency within a couple of months.

Fourteen people, all of them professionals, are currently working at the main office in Istanbul. They also have 14 reporters on the ground in different cities such as Damascus, Aleppo and Idlib in Syria.

“The regime would kill them if they caught any of our reporters. Therefore we have to be very careful,” said the editor-in-chief of the radio station, Firas Fayyad. 

Fayyad, a Syrian filmmaker and broadcaster, had been imprisoned for five months on accusations of “encouraging demonstrations” after the uprising started in Syria. He fled for Turkey after he was released. 

One of the biggest problems for Syrians in Turkey and abroad is the lack of a healthy news flow, according to Fayyad. 

“We are not taking sides with any political parties. Our only aim is to inform the Syrian people and reflect the truths in Syria. The Western media generally neglects the humanitarian side of the civil war in Syria. However, most of the people that are being killed are civilians. We want to draw attention to the terrible humanitarian conditions that Syrian people have been encountering in Syria,” Fayyad said. 
The newspapers that are being published by Syrians in Turkey aim to deliver news from Syria based on facts. There are more than 30 Syrian newspapers in Turkey ranging from magazines copied by photocopiers to ones that are being published in professional publishing houses. 

One of the biggest is “Sada al-Sham” (The Voice of Syria) which is edited in Istanbul, printed in Adana and distributed both in Turkey and Syria. 

The owner and editor-in-chief of the newspaper is a veteran Syrian journalist, Absi Smesem. Smesem said the government issued an arrest warrant for him two months after the uprising started in Syria in 2011. After traveling with his cousin’s ID inside Syria for a while, he escaped Turkey with his family at the beginning of 2013. 

“One of the things that we need most in Syria right now is a reliable media organization which can reflect the truths on the ground. This is the main reason why we have started publishing this newspaper,” Smesem said. 

The total number of the staff working for the newspaper is 30, including 13 reporters based in different cities in Syria. 

While some Syrian refugees who have been staying in parks and empty areas of Istanbul are looking for a job and a place to live, others who can afford to rent a place are building up new lives in Turkey with the funds they receive from international NGOs, according to civil society organizations.

Schools providing education according to Syrian curriculum

Six Syrian schools started education in Istanbul alone this year, providing schooling according to the Arab republic’s curriculum.

Most of the Istanbul schools are located in suburban districts such as Esenyurt, Esenler, Ümraniye and Başakşehir, although there are more than 50 schools for Syrians across Turkey when facilities in refugee camps are added to the list.

The school in Esenyurt was launched with the cooperation of Esenyurt Municipality and the Syrian “Kadimun Education Foundation” and has 13 different classes ranging from first to 11th grade. 

There are currently 619 students registered at the school, but 200 of them are on a waiting list, said the chairwoman of the school’s board, Ola Ragıpoğlu. 

Ragıpoğlu said that together with the Syrian opposition, they were in the process of creating a new education council that will organize all the Syrian schools in Turkey under a single umbrella.