Turkey has more than 3 million Syrian refugees displaced by the ongoing war. Yet ties between Turks and Syrians remain lukewarm at most as the country is not accustomed to such a huge influx of foreigners.
Youth camps set up in the southeast may overcome this problem. Organized by the Southeastern Anatolian Project Regional Development Directorate (GAP BKİ), a local state-run development agency, and United Nations Development Program (UNDP), bring together Syrian and Turkish youth.
The project called “Empowering Social Stability” offers a platform for them to exchange ideas on life and pastime activities.
In Şanlıurfa, a border city with Syria, 130 university students from Turkey and Syria came together for a 10-day camp on the banks of Birecik Dam. They played football, painted and played music together.
Taim Tatari, a 22-year-old who took refuge in Gaziantep, another Turkish border province, five years ago, is among the students who attended the camp.
“It is a real joy. I stayed in such a camp for the first time in my life. I learned how to paint here. I met Turkish friends. We have a great view here,” he said.
Melda Turan, a 23-year-old Turkish student, came from the southern city of Hatay for the camp. She says she had misconceptions about refugees before she met them in the camp.
“The camp has a good atmosphere. We socialize with our new friends. Most of us don’t speak Arabic and some of them can’t speak Turkish but we still understand each other. Most people were at a camp for the first time in their lives but it has been time well spent,” she said.
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