Which way should I go in Istanbul?

Anything is better than a lack of perspective


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So far, more than two million Syrian refugees have found shelter in Turkey. An estimated 400,000 of them live in Istanbul alone. Those seeking protection are hardly offered any prospects in Turkey; the refugees are largely left to their own devices. The government had announced several times that it would officially open the labor market to refugees - but they still do not receive work permits.

In Little Damascus, the escaped do not want to be worn down by the uncertainty. Nawar Omari is sitting in a travel agency next to the restaurant where Kalil works, waiting for customers. The 29-year-old with the thick black beard, alert eyes and trembling smoker's hands comes from Aleppo. Four years ago he escaped to Istanbul on foot with his wife and son. Now the three of them live in a small room above the travel agency. Yes, he is grateful to Turkey, he says, but the family still wants to leave.

My child should live in a peaceful country. The only sure thing here is uncertainty, says Omari, behind which a welded-in map of Europe hangs on the wall, on which the paths look so short. He has long since stopped believing the stories that Germany welcomes refugees. "Still, anything is better than this lack of prospects. We will find a way to Europe, whether legal or illegal," says the family man.

"I want a real job"

It is getting dark on Murat Pa┼ča Street. Hatem Zardi is also waiting for customers. The 22-year-old studied sport in Damascus and has been working here as a shoe shiner for a year. He saves his money for a crossing to Greece. Why? "I want a real job," he says, sitting on a small stool. "I want a normal life, Turkey is sinking into chaos right now." Then he gets up, he puts his legs on the floor, his gaze wanders down the street. "Nobody can expect us to hold out here," he says angrily. "Even if Europe doesn't care about human rights, we are human and we won't let ourselves be stopped from claiming our rights!"

Rasha Sabbagh unreservedly agrees. The mathematician came to Istanbul four years ago from Homs, Syria, and now earns her living in Little Damascus selling textiles. Their destination is Europe too. Which way does she want to take? I'll probably get into a rubber dinghy in spring and just hope that someone will take me in, says the 31-year-old. No pact, no law, no border fence can stop them. "I dream of peace at night," she says, pulling on a cigarette. And she can't find that in Turkey.