The Syrian refugee crisis has reached massive proportions, with more than 3.5 million of those displaced by violence seeking refuge in Turkey.
As was the case for Halime Cuma, an 11-year-old girl who became a refugee when her and her family left Syria for Turkey approximately one year ago.
Despite their poor living conditions and only her youngest sibling being able to attend school, Halime was determined to get an education.
Which is how this video of her studying in a pile of rubbish came to light:
In the footage Halime can be seen studying and making notes in a notebook while sitting in what looks like a huge bin bag.
She is surrounded by several large rubbish bins and appears to be concentrating hard on her work, despite cars and motorbikes passing on the road opposite.
The squalor of her surroundings does not seem to trouble her, despite the fact she cannot possibly be comfortable in the position she’s in.
Halime lives with her parents and six brothers and sisters in Arnavutkoy – on the European side of Istanbul – and is the eldest child.
Before this video was posted on social media of her studiously writing in her notebook, only her youngest sibling Hamide was able to attend school. The family simply could not afford the costs for their other children.
However, once the video was posted onto social media it sparked outrage and the Turkish education authorities were forced to step in.
They found the young girl a place at a Turkish school, and she started her education on Wednesday (September 26).
Her dad Abdulrezzak Cuma told local media:
I wanted my kids to go to school and was very upset that most of them could not.
Halime started her new school today and I am over the moon. Now she will be able to progress in life. Next, I hope all out children will have access to public education.
Council officials have confirmed that the municipality will pay for Halime’s school costs, meaning her family will not have to worry about being able to afford it.
The 11-year-old has said she is ‘excited’ at going to school, especially because she will have ‘access to so many books’ while she’s there.
And Halime’s family is not alone in their plight. Since 2011, Turkey has faced the largest mass migration in its history, with more than 3.5 million Syrian refugees fleeing their war torn country.
In Istanbul alone, there are at least 560,000 registered Syrian refugees, the majority living in similar conditions to Halime’s family.
So what can be done to help them?
That’s where the municipalities mentioned earlier come into play. As well as paying for the education of some refugees, like in Halime’s case, municipalities provide support in many more ways.
According to fellows of Foreign Policy Kemal Kirişci, Jessica Brandt, and M. Murat Erdoğan:
Municipalities have been particularly innovative in their efforts to accommodate refugees by running free language courses, instituting social support programs, permitting a degree of legal flexibility for Syrians opening businesses.
Despite this, Syrian refugees still face challenges every day. Reports such as Turkey’s Syrian Refugees: Defusing Metropolitan Tensions by the International Crisis Group emphasise the fact that hostility towards Syrian refugees is constantly on the rise.
Hopefully though, one step at a time, we will be able to help refugees such as Halime get a better quality of life.
If you have a story you want to tell, send it to [email protected]
A Broadcast Journalism Masters graduate who went on to achieve an NCTJ level 3 Diploma in Journalism, Lucy has done stints at ITV, BBC Inside Out and Key 103. While working as a journalist for UNILAD, Lucy has reported on breaking news stories while also writing features about mental health, cervical screening awareness, and Little Mix (who she is unapologetically obsessed with).