Turkey: providing hope for Afghans in Turkey
28 May 2013

Mena picks out some clothing at the JRS distribution centre in Kirrikale, Turkey. She and her family are among the 300 Afghan families residing in Kirrikale who are in need of support.
People arrive here with high hopes that things will be better, or that a solution for them will be found quickly. This is not the case, and it’s very disappointing for them.

Ankara, 28 May 2013 - Mena is waiting her turn at the distribution centre in Kirrikale, a satellite town to Turkey’s capital city of Ankara. Whilst she waits, she tells me her story with the help of a translator.

“I left Afghanistan when I was 16. That was five years ago, after my father was killed by the fighting in our province.”

She lived in Gazney province, Afghanistan with her mother and sister until they were forced to leave after her father’s death.

“We had no one to protect us or to look after us. So my mother, sister and I left to Iran. We lived in Tehran for about four and a half years. I met my husband there, he is also Afghan.”

Mena is now 21 years old, married and has just had her first child, a daughter named Mediko.

Her husband is a tailor by trade, and in Tehran was able to find work. However, in Iran the situation for Afghan refugees is difficult to say the least.

“Life in Tehran was very difficult, at least we are treated much better in Turkey, but language is a barrier. In Tehran we were understood because we can speak Farsi, but that didn’t mean we were treated well.”

High hopes. According to Nader Awadallah, a JRS staff member in Turkey, “People arrive here with high hopes that things will be better, or that a solution for them will be found quickly. This is not the case, and it’s very disappointing for them.”

“One of the main components of our support is to also help them integrate into the community here through Turkish lessons, but also to help them keep some kind of hope for the future, especially for those with young children.”

Here, in Turkey, her husband is the sole provider of their family, which includes Mena’s mother and sister.

Mena, her husband, mother and sister have registered with the UN Refugee agency (UNHCR) but, according to her, they do not receive adequate support from them. In Kirrikale JRS serves 300 Afghan families, as well as Iraqis, Iranians and others who come to Turkey seeking asylum or awaiting resettlement to a third country. 

JRS support is offered in the form of emergency assistance with BIM grocery cards, rent assistance where possible, clothes, hygiene products and legal and medical referrals. Turkish and English lessons are also available for adults and children. Through accompanying families, good relations are fostered with the refugee community in Kirrikale. 

After signing for her monthly BIM grocery card of 25 Turkish lira, which allows her to shop for groceries in local stores, Mena collected some diapers and picked out an item or two of clothing from the thrift shop, then hurried home to be with her daughter.


Zerene Haddad, Regional Communications Officer, Middle East and North Africa