Turkey is both a destination and major crossroads for refugees from Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Sudan and Somalia who are hoping to reach Europe or awaiting resettlement. (Jesuit Refugee Service)
Ankara, 4 February 2013 – As the international community focuses its attention on the Syrian conflict, refugees from other areas of conflict are all but forgotten. In Turkey, the JRS team is coming into contact with more and more Iraqis who have been doubly displaced – once to Syria and now to Turkey or other countries. Their stories tell of a never-ending struggle to survive in new places and their search for a brighter future.

Mohammed. Originally from Iraq, I fled my home country for the United Arab Emirates because of the war in 2003. I stayed in the Emirates for five years working for a trade company. After hearing that the situation had supposedly improved I returned to Iraq.

When I moved back I opened a currency exchange bureau, but shortly afterwards thugs began to threaten me if I didn't give them money. To find some peace and security, I decided to close the business. But when it was blown up, I realised my situation was worse than I had thought.

Eighteen months ago I came to Turkey. Once I arrived I realised that the situation is more difficult than I thought: I felt that I was treated poorly and that not enough attention was given to my case. I feel very alone here and excluded because I do not speak Turkish.

In an effort to integrate and learn Turkish, I went to the JRS office to enrol in language courses. I'm currently waiting for the next session and the JRS family visits team has come to visit me in my home. I look forward to being involved in more activities with them.

Almuthana Abdulmajeed. I'm originally from Iraq and came to Turkey after seeking refuge in Syria.

In Iraq I was kidnapped twice by two different militias. Luckily, the Iraqi army was stationed near my family's home and they saved my life by helping me escape. After these incidents, my father decided that I, at the age of 15, should leave Iraq and go to Syria since the language and cultural norms between the two countries are similar. We also heard about possible job opportunities in Syria.

I stayed in Damascus, Syria from 2004 until February 2012. But I left because the situation had become increasingly worse for Iraqis. Local NGOs were primarily serving Syrians, they seemed to forget it was already our second conflict. When the crisis started, armed gangs started asking for money in exchange for protection. So I left Damascus and came to Turkey.

I want to live here in peace but I face many difficulties including the language barrier and inability to access the labour market. Finally, I'm still awaiting news about the resettlement application I made while in Syria. I would like to go to the US and join my sister who has been living there for three years.

Saad Khorsheed Sameen. I'm an Iraqi who came to Turkey in January 2011. In Iraq I was, like everybody else, very afraid and vigilant. I enjoyed having an active social life and the freedom to go out with my friends when I pleased. Unfortunately, this was forbidden by the Islamic militias. I wasn't able to live like a normal human being in my own country, so I decided to flee.

First I went to Greece, where I stayed for almost two years but because of the economic crisis, I faced many difficulties; there was no assistance for refugees, I applied for asylum but was rejected. The language was difficult to learn, and unemployment was high. When I heard on the news that the living conditions and security in Iraq was improving, I decided to return home.

I went back to Iraq where I encountered the same difficulties as before. I stayed because I wanted to be with my family. One afternoon on the way home I noticed the street was full with army and police. Then, I was told that my father and three-year-old nephew had been killed by militias.

After that I began feeling guilty, as if the deaths of my father and younger nephew were my fault. My family told me the militias killed my father because they wanted to kill me and were now after me. It soon became very difficult for me to cope with all these thoughts and feelings.

I realised I could no longer live in Iraq and moved to Turkey. When I arrived I felt like I was in Greece all over again with no work or ability to understand the language. JRS was the sole NGO in Ankara that offered assistance with some grocery coupons and clothing. Sadly, I was transferred to another city, I can no longer access these services anymore.

All I hope for is to live in peace, without feeling that somebody is after me, trying to catch me. I want to live like a normal young man, after all I'm only 36 years old.