“Keeping my family together means everything”

It’s midday in Kilis, a village in south-east Turkey, and the searing sun has pushed most of the locals under the awnings of shops and plastic market stall tarpaulins where they wait hoping someone will buy their produce. With the Syrian border at its doorstep, more than half the town’s population is now Syrian refugees. Pedestrian traffic is infrequent. As too are those that are buying.

In the corner of the market, and in front of stacks of neatly folded clothing, stands Mahdi Basara. He is himself a refugee from Syria trying to provide for his family. But without help, life as a refugee is impossible, he says. With pride Mahdi introduces his eldest two daughters. He also introduces a young boy, six month-old twins, and his wife, Hadi. They are all incredibly quiet but wear the same warming smile.

Mahdi is quick to launch into the real impact of DRC’s one-off and monthly cash-assistance and support packages. Packages for vulnerable refugees that include requested goods and support, and are agreed upon after DRC home assessment.

“I consider DRC as a tree and my family is protected by its branches,” Mahdi says.

Like many Syrians, the past four years have been a battle for survival and on-going movement to find refuge from war. In September 2012, the father said he made the difficult decision to leave his farm and home in Der Zor, Al Bukamal, and try and find safety for his family. He loaded his car with their possessions and started a journey that has seen them in three years move to Aleppo in Syria, Iraq and now Turkey where he has been for 15 months. The loss of his own parents from bombardments in Syria and many friends haunts him. But that mission to keep his family together and safe remains his daily priority.

Despite once living “comfortably” the constant movement and inability to make an income has forced him to steadily sell-off all his possessions and has emptied his bank account.

Being 64 and “old” he says he cannot even get labor work that many young Syrians, including children as young as ten years of age are being picked up to do. Aside from the few dollars he earns selling his second hand clothes, the family’s needs are now met by foreign aid.

This has included paying for on-going health treatment for his wife who suffers severe asthma, mattresses and blankets and an 800Turkish Lira (US$260) per month cash assistance E-card that has been used for food and diapers for the twins. The DRC outreach team also makes regular visits to the family home to ensure their basic needs are being met. 

“Our life is simple but with help I can at least now provide our daily bread and keep my wife alive.”

Mahdi said he has started to feel safe in Turkey and while everyday he dreams of taking his family back to their home in Syria he would like to not have to move again. “It is only with support we can stay. Otherwise I must look to where I can make a living to support my family.”

From October 2014 to May 2015, the European Commission for Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection (ECHO) has supported over 1000 Syrian households like the Basara’s in southeastern Turkey, providing direct assistance to vulnerable Syrian refugees displaced by the ongoing conflict.

“To those that give I can never thank them enough,” said Mahdi.