Sitting in her home in Fethiye with her family around her, Safsaf could not look any happier.
She welcomes you with open arms and a huge smile, serves an endless supply of Syrian tea or coffee, along with delicious food and chats to you with enthusiasm.
Life in this modest Fethiye home seems happy and content.
Safsaf lived in Damascus, Syria, with her husband, Morhaf, and small daughter, Leen. She had just discovered that she was expecting a second child. She was a primary school teacher and Morhaf a painter and decorator. They had just bought a new house and were working hard to make it a home where they could bring up their young family.
From everyday life to fear
The civil war brought an end to all of that. The lives of Syrians had gone from everyday life to revolving around fear.
Things became so bad that in 2014, after Morhaf had been kidnapped and his brother killed by a bomb, Safsaf and Leen fled Syria to seek refuge in Turkey.
Safsaf gathered what possessions she could carry and, with one year old, Leen, walked and took the occasional bus from Damascus to Aleppo. From there she crossed the border to Osmaniye in Turkey.
“All I had was two bags with a few possessions and the equivalent of 600TL in cash. There were bombs going off at the border crossing and a soldier pointed a gun at my head and they took Leen. I was screaming as I didn’t think I would see her again”
In Osmaniye, Safsaf officially registered as a refugee to be able to benefit from health care and schooling.
Morhaf was fortunate enough to be released by his captors and joined Safsaf and Leen in Osmaniye, where they were staying with a friend.
Although they felt safer in Turkey, Morhaf needed to find work to support his family so he set off walking and thumbing lifts (where he could), to Fethiye, a journey that took him one month.
Morhaf found casual work and a home in Fethiye and sent for Safsaf and Leen to join him.
Safsaf was able to speak some English when she arrived but didn’t understand Turkish. The family were alone in a strange country with no friends or extended family, and very little furniture or possessions.
Two years and five months later…
Today, Safsaf speaks almost fluent English and is learning Turkish. Five months after her arrival in Fethiye, her Mum, Dad and youngest sister made the 20 hour journey by boat, via Beirut, to join them. Zain was born five months after her journey from Syria began.
With the help of people living locally, Safsaf has made a life here for herself and her family, along with many friends.
She is now active in helping other families in the relatively small Syrian community that has settled in the area over the past couple of years.
T.C. Safsaf Kadri
There are over 3 million Syrian refugees in Turkey. The Turkish government made a decision to give Turkish Citizenship to 1000 of these refugees and Safsaf was chosen to apply.
“The best day in my life”
On 22 August 2017, Safsaf and her family received their Turkish Citizenship (Kimlik). They were the first of the 1000 to receive it.
“That is my best day in my life new start thank you my god, thank you State of Turkey, thanks to all the friends who supported me here. Thank you ladies. I love you so much I will not forget this day. Thank you Turkey” – Safsaf Kadri
The heartache behind the smile
Although Safsaf and her family now have a new life and a safe place to stay, she is still haunted by memories of the death and devastation she witnessed in Syria and desperately worried about the members of her family who are still there.