Public Policy and Syrians Under Temporary Protection in Turkey: Daily Life, Survival, Access to Public Services, and Social Inclusion

December 11, 2018

“During my fieldwork with Syrian refugees, I met industrious men and strong women with beautiful smiling eyes, who can laugh despite the hardship and shattered lives."

As part of its ongoing Speaker Series, Columbia Global Centers | Istanbul hosted Professor Nilüfer Narlı, founding Chair of the Department of Sociology at Bahçeşehir University, on December 11 at Columbia University's Studio-X Istanbul, for a talk titled  “Public Policy and Syrians Under Temporary Protection in Turkey: Daily Life, Survival, Access to Public Services, and Social Inclusion.”

Over 120 people listened to her speak about her latest research, which focuses on the daily life of Syrian refugees in Turkey, particularly in Istanbul, and their survival strategies and the types of risks they face. Professor Narlı conducted intensive field work in Zeytinburnu in 2016 and 2017, and in Syrian refugee-populated bordering cities in 2015 and 2016. She conducted focus groups and informal interview with the muhtars (headman of a ward) of Zeytinburnu. She also created a survey that was filled out by 380 Syrians living in Zeytinburnu.

Professor Narlı addressed the trajectory of Syrian refugees’ journey from the war situation in Syria to Zeytinburnu in Istanbul, their living conditions, social networks, stress-coping strategies and their access to public services (education, health, etc.), as well as their integration and social inclusion in Turkey. She noted that only 39% of children ages 5-19 were found to be in school. A significant number (13%) were found be working, the majority of whom were ages 15-19. The majority of the adult sample (85%) noted that they prefer to stay in Turkey rather than leaving for another country.

In summary, Professor Narlı noted that during her fieldwork, she met industrious men and strong women with beautiful smiling eyes who can laugh despite the hardship and having their lives been shattered. She came across resilient and hard-working children with big and corny hands, whose traumatic stories are sealed in their palms. In addition to food and shelter, they all have one important thing to survive: smartphones. She concluded on a positive note that many are eager to live in Turkey and integrate into the society.