Silhouette of a refugee woman: a conversation with Meryem

The impact of the many ‘isms of life cannot be understated. Here is a powerful story, told through the eyes of a Syrian refugee.

The need to belong

Şanlıurfa (Urfa) is an ancient city in Turkey’s south-east. Often referred to as ‘the city of prophets’, its historic ties and proximity to Syria mean that the city’s population has risen to two million in recent years, nearly a quarter of whom are refugees fleeing conflict from across the border. This is one of their stories.

The alleyways of Urfa are narrow, laid with cobblestones and bathed in a yellow sunshine, flanked on either side by almost identical doors of rusting iron. I approach a door which is black, heavy and coarse. After a short wait, a woman, dressed entirely in black, opens the door. Her eyes are sharp, and she stands tall: distant yet gracious…

Her name is Meryem. She is a 38-year-old Syrian woman, with a striking beauty and fearless eyes that bore into my own. Meryem has two sons, one aged 18 and the other just 16…

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