Rebuilding what’s lost

How a Syrian refugee found economic opportunity though Livelihoods programming in Iraqi Kurdistan.


At one point in the recent past, years of building a successful furniture workshop in northern Syria were just a memory for Bahram Hassan who lost everything before fleeing to the Kurdistan Region of Iraq in 2014.

The 42-year-old left his home in Syria’s Al-Hassakeh due to the mounting instability he and his family faced as a result of the years-long conflict there. Hassan, his wife and their three children came to Duhok Governorate with the hope of finding safety and economic opportunity as steady work was difficult to find back home.

In his hometown, Hassan worked for many years as a casual laborer and carpenter. After much hard work and dedication, he opened a small workshop where he built furniture and quickly developed a loyal customer base and reputation for producing great quality pieces. With the ongoing conflict in Syria, however, he experienced a steady decline in business and was forced to shut down his shop

Similar to many of the more than 240,000 Syrians who sought refuge in Iraq after the start of the crisis in Syria, Hassan found it difficult to compete for limited job opportunities to make a living in the midst of a slow economy. 

‘I lost everything in Syria, but I’ll keep working wherever I go because I like what I do and I have experience,’ Hassan said. ‘I don’t want to ever give up on my dreams and ambitions.’

With that ambition, Hassan managed to take the little savings he had to open another, smaller workshop where he lives. A few simple tools and some equipment were enough to start again, and slowly he began to build a reputation for producing high-quality work. More and more customers came but Hassan found that as he took on more projects, his work slowed. He realized it was time to scale up.

With support from the European Regional Development and Protection Programme (RDPP), Hassan received a business grant from DRC’s Livelihoods programme that allowed him to scale up his operation. ‘Everything has changed,’ he said. ‘Work is going faster, I have more customers, and I can help support my family here and back in Syria.’ As the owner of a growing business, Hassan is also now able to hire both Syrian and local employees from his area and help improve the job market while fostering stronger relationships in his community.

Hassan is one of 88 entrepreneurs selected to take part in DRC’s Business Incubation Programme that provides increased opportunities for self-employment through business management trainings, partnership negotiations, distribution of grants and continual support from a DRC Business Advisor.