Syrian women speak: Fadia’s Story
Syrian women speak: Fadia’s Story
Fadia*, 37, is a mother, widow, and seamstress, from near Aleppo, now living in Birecek, Turkey. She finds seasonal work on farms in order to cover her family’s costs.
“In Syria, my children were working in a carpet factory, even the six-year-old.”
I came to Turkey one year ago. I have four children under 15, and I am a widow. Four years ago, when we lived in Syria, my husband went to the bakery to buy us bread. The bakery was bombed, and he was killed.
In Syria, my children were working in a carpet factory, even the six-year-old. Only the five-year-old stayed at home with me.
Before the conflict I had a sewing machine and worked as a seamstress from my house, but with the war, work decreased. I had been working for merchants from Iraq and for other workshops. Whenever they had extra work, they would come to me. I learned how to sew from my mother when I was 14 years old.
I also took care of the children and the cooking. But we were poor so I had to work. In Syria, we rented a house when we married, while our family worked and saved. Finally, four years before the war, we finished our house. And then we lost it – it was destroyed in the war. Our house was on the frontlines and we had to flee when the regime came.
“The impact of war on women has been so difficult, everything is difficult about it.”
For the first three days in Turkey, we lived in the streets, before we found a place. We slept in a pistachio field, there were other families staying there, too. Then I found work on the farms. There’s no work in the winter, though, so we wait now for summer. On the farms, I earn only 25 TL/day (around US$8.00), working two or three days a week. We are forced to borrow money.
Sometimes my son joins me, sometimes he goes to a different farm. In Turkey, it’s harder for me to find work as a seamstress. Half of us working in the field are women. It was difficult adjusting to this work. I had never worked on farms before. It was a challenge. There’s some harassment of Syrian women, young or old, men trying to make affairs. Some of the Turkish men make fun of us when they see us working. Where are your husbands, they ask. Are you a widow? You want to get married? This is not the work we choose, but what we are forced to do for our families, for our children.
The impact of war on women has been so difficult, everything is difficult about it. Before the war, I didn’t have to work outside.
“I don’t want to be a stranger in a strange land”
Two of my children attend school. One works as a metal smith and carpenter. He is 13. He helps design windows and doors.They work with machines there, but the boss is careful not to put him at risk. He can earn 50 TL/week. My ten-year-old also works at a barbershop. We need this so that we can manage. Still, we owe debts to neighbors. Our rent was 250 TL, but the landlord agreed to lower it to 200 TL, at least in the winter when there is no work on farms.
I finished sixth grade. But it was shameful to continue school after the sixth grade. All of the girls left school at that age in my town. I wanted to continue, but girls were not allowed. It was assumed we would do stay at home and then marry.
I don’t think about resettlement. I didn’t even want to leave Syria, but with no work and so much bombing we had to. Here, at least I am close to home. I don’t want to be a stranger in a strange land. It’s better for us to stay close to Syria. I hope the war will end soon and we can return to our home. This is too difficult for women, especially those with families and no supporters. They need good salaries to improve their lives. What I earn now is not enough.