The bitter truth behind Syrian war: desperate widows

Monday, February 10, 2014

Already overwhelmed by the loss of their husbands, Syrian widows and their children in Turkey's capital city face dire economic circumstances.

Already overwhelmed by the loss of their husbands, Syrian widows and their children in Turkey's capital city face dire economic circumstances.

by Hatice Kesgin & Ali Ozturk

ANKARA - More than half a million Syrians displaced during the civil war have fled to Turkey, and the most affected ones are Syrian widows and children.

Tens of thousands of desperate Syrian widows were forced to leave their country and had to seek refuge in neighboring countries after losing their breadwinners during the three-year-old conflict. Some of Syrian widows who are living in Ankara tell the stories of how their lives were shattered by the fighting that has torn their homeland apart.

Unlike southern Turkish cities close the Syrian border such as Adana, Adiyaman, Gaziantep, Hatay, Kahramanmaras, Kilis, Mardin, Malatya, Osmaniye and Sanliurfa, Turkey's capital, Ankara, does not have a refugee camp and those who newly arrived here are left to fend for themselves.

Macide, Selima and Huda are just three of the countless Syrian widowed women in Turkey, according to the Turkish charity organization Humanitarian Relief Foundation (IHH). They escaped with their lives "through the fence" set along the Turkish-Syrian border while trying to avoid being shot.

Mohammedi, 28, from Homs, mother of 2-year-old girl and a 6-year-old boy, now lives in a three-room 'gecekondu', a shanty house in a low-income neighborhood on the outskirts of Ankara with her brother’s family.

"My husband was shot dead while going to buy bread with our kids. After he was killed and his burial, my children started begging me to take them out of this turmoil," Macide tells an Anadolu Agency correspondent who visited the family in their home in the neighbourhood of Altindag.

"The situation became catastrophic and unbearable. We endured it until we couldn’t take it anymore," she says.

Carrying just their clothes, the family sought refuge in Turkey a year ago.

"We left Syria under heavy bombardment, and reached Turkey. We had to wait for four days to cross the border because of the paper work and we had to change several shelters until we settled here," says the mother.

Their modest home they have been sharing with her brother’s family has a few mattresses on the floor, and an old TV to watch the Syrian channels.

She is the only person having a job as a cleaner but her salary is so low that they can just about make ends meet. "I have to support the whole family of ten because my brother is suffering from a hernia in his spine and can’t work,” she says.

Another widow Selima Fileta, 31, arrived in Ankara a year ago with her sister’s family. Her husband was killed when their house in Homs was bombarded.

"One day I went to my neighbor, living next to my home, with my five kids and my home was shelled with heavy bombs while my husband was sleeping in and he was killed during the bombardment," she says. After the attack she did not want to live in Homs for security concerns of her children and fled from Syria with just the clothes on her back.

She says only her sister in-law is working and she is supporting the whole family of 15. They survive on her salary and food aid from Turkish charity organizations.

"I am on my own with my five children in Turkey, depending on handouts from humanitarian foundations and the local community, and also my elder daughter and son have to live in Gaziantep with my other relatives because of the lack of space and of money," she says tearfully.

Selima adds: "Homs now is a horrible place you cannot imagine. Totally deserted, houses look like ghosts. No electricity, no water, no bread. You hear just explosions."

In a small three-roomed flat, another refugee, mother of five girls, Huda Emin, 44, from Homs, lives in Ankara while her eldest daughter and her husband still live in Syria.

Huda says, "I am lucky when compared to other widows but I really miss my elder daughter and my husband and am concerned about their safety."

She was forced to leave her home with four daughters. But she couldn't take her eldest daughter with them because she is married and has got three kids.

"We came through the fence with just the clothes on our backs. When I arrived in Turkey I started crying because of not only sadness of leaving my country but of happiness with being alive and saving the lives of my four children. The Turkish guards treated us kindly and served us food. They brought blankets for the ones who were cold. I really miss my daughter Zahra’s babies. Everyday I remember my daughter and my husband; this is how my day is," she adds sorrowfully.

Syria’s nearly three-year-old conflict has killed more than 130,000 people since the uprising began in March 2011 and forced millions from their homes, according to figures from the United Nations.

Copyright © 2014 Anadolu Agency