HASAN – Syrians in Gaziantep: not an easy integration

Syrians in Gaziantep: not an easy integrationSince the start of the Syrian civil war, Gaziantep has been one of the most favored cities in Turkey for Syrian refugees fleeing the violence. And like so many southern towns and cities near the Turkish-Syrian border, Gaziantep has begun to change in irreversible ways since the start of the Syrian conflict.

The changes are reflected in the local economy, as well as in social and political life.The failure of Ankara to reassess its policies — which at the beginning of the conflict next door were based on the assumption that fighting would come to a close in a few months — have wound up dragging much of Turkeyand#39s southern regions into utter chaos.

And so now, the 2 million or so Syrians residing in Turkey have found themselves on a bumpy road to integration.In the meantime, with Ankara focused entirely on the upcoming June elections, the government is doing nothing to renew or reassess its policies regarding Syrian refugees and their livelihoods here.

To wit, government announcements to the public regarding these 2 million or so war refugees have been put off for the foreseeable future, or at least until after the elections. And so the problems appear to have been sidelined.

At this point, there are around 450,000 Syrians living in Gaziantep. In other words, around one-fourth of the total Syrians who currently live in Turkey are in this southeastern city.

Perhaps it is also relevant to point out that the US is opening a consulate in Gaziantep. There are some 68 civil society organizations formed by Syrians in Gaziantep.

There are also representatives of some 23 international civil society organizations in the city, all of whom are working with Syria in some way or another Of the 1,600 Turkish-staffed civil society organizations working in Turkey, some of course work directly or indirectly with SyriaStill, no one seems to want to see that the main problem facing Turkey at this point is the incredibly bumpy road to integration that Syrian refugees are experiencing.In the fall of 2012, Veysel Dalmaz was appointed as coordinating governor — the person in charge of overseeing every issue connected to the ever-growing population of Syrians in the country, and in Gaziantep in particular But in January of this year, he was removed from the position and wound up returning to AnkaraAfter Dalmaz, the prime ministerial head undersecretary, Kani Torun, was brought in to take the position.

Torun, who has not only worked with Turkish doctors helping abroad but also at the Turkish Embassy in Somalia, is an experienced and successful person.But a number of factors — including the fact that, technically, the position of coordinating governor itself was cancelled, Dalmaz was transferred to Ankara after what was truly a successful performance and Torun himself resides not in Gaziantep but in Ankara — show us that, in fact, Ankara has decided to postpone dealing with the Syrian issue until after the elections.

Other tidbits concerning the large presence of Syrians in Gaziantep: Following the influx, more and more men in the city seem to have more than one wife illnesses that had never been seen there before are starting to emerge illegal organ harvesting incidents are on the rise and kidnappings with ransom demands are also increasing.Interestingly, Gaziantep now follows only Istanbul in terms of narcotic addiction.

And, in four years, the problems with cars bearing Syrian license plates still havenand#39t been solved no one knows exactly what to do when involved in an accident involving one of these vehicles.Perhaps more importantly, there are now some 80,000 school-age Syrian children living in Gaziantep.

In some cases the schooling that has been made available to these children is made up of andldquoundergroundandrdquo Salafism courses, which are also taken by some children of Turkish citizens as well. In the course of the four years here, no one has managed to teach them Turkish.

Everyone knows that the real problems facing Turkey and Syrian refugees start outside, rather than inside, the camps built by the state.

SOURCE: Today’s Zaman