By Ece Ceren Doğar & Neriman Kahveci Kızıltaş, Turkish Red Crescent

Separated from their husbands, parents and children, four women escaped the war in Syria in hope of finding a safe place to live. Their paths crossed at the Turkish Red Crescent’s community centre in Kilis where learning the local language is bringing them together.

Hayriye, 33, has been living in Turkey for five years. Her two boys, aged 16 and 18, are working at the local shop but her husband had to stay behind in Syria because of his mum’s illness.

“Since I started taking Turkish lessons, I gained more confidence and able to communicate much better with the locals. Everyone is so nice, I don’t feel alone in this place anymore,” Hayriye said.

Turkish language course participants are improving their language skills and interact with others at the Turkish Red Crescent community center.

Turkish language course participants are improving their language skills and interact with others at the Turkish Red Crescent community center.

“Wherever we went, there was war”

Leaving four of her five children behind, Amine came to Turkey for medical treatment. The 47-year-old is living with a brain tumour that could cause her to become paralysed.

“No matter where we went in Syria, there was war,” she said. “No hospitals, no doctors, no electricity. It was miserable.”

The community centre is the only place she can take her mind off things for a while each day.

“Mum, will the missile fall again?”

Desnim, 28, came with her husband and two children via Lebanon but had to leave her parents behind.

“When I learned that I couldn’t bring my mother to Turkey due to a  border closure, I became very depressed,” Desnim said.

She has started volunteering with other children at the centre and says its helping to bring families together.

“Our children are the most affected by the war,” Desnim said “I don’t want to hear questions like ‘Mum, will the missile fall again?’ Let’s end this and let families come together.”

Living with her husband and children, Desnim also works as a volunteer in Kilis Community Centre.

Living with her husband and children, Desnim also works as a volunteer in Kilis Community Centre.

“I want to teach my kids Turkish”

Hatice, 30, was nine months pregnant when she arrived in Turkey. Her son Bünyamin, 5, has health problems – his kidneys are not functioning, so they have to go to a hospital almost 60km away in Gaziantep every fortnight. Despite coming from a border village and speaking good Turkish, she decided to enrol on a language course at the centre.

“I came for writing and reading,” she said. “My children know some Turkish but I want to teach them more and help them in their lessons.”

The Red Crescent community centres provide skills training, language courses, psychosocial support and children’s activities for displaced families and local people in 11 provinces across Turkey.