The Syrian scientist in exile

Darie fled her home so her daughter could have a childhood

October 6, 2016

© UNHCR/ Donatella Lorch

A mother checking her child’s homework may seem like a mundane daily task, but Darie Alikaj doesn’t take it for granted — or that her daughter Mayas has access to an education and they have a home in which they feel safe and protected.

In July 2015, Daria and Mayas fled to Turkey from Syria, where Darie chaired the microbiology department at the University of Aleppo — a career she loved. She stayed for as long as she could, even after bombs destroyed her home and her commute included a dash across a military checkpoint where snipers attacked people every day. It was when there were no more schools left for Mayas to attend that Darie decided it was time to leave.

I left Syria for the sake of my daughter. I want her to have a childhood.

Syrian refugee Darie (40) and her daughter Mayas (9) visit a playground in the neighbourhood of Esenler

Thanks to the generous support of USA for UNHCR donors, Darie and Mayas have been able to rebuild their lives. Special temporary protection status provides them with resources to create a much-needed semblance of normalcy. Mother and daughter have access to healthcare. Mayas continues her primary schooling at one of the 10 education centers for Syrian refugees. Darie is taking Turkish language courses, has obtained a work permit and is teaching biology at a school. They share an apartment with Darie’s two sisters and her elderly parents in a neighborhood in Istanbul with Syrian restaurants and cafes.

Darie’s story is far from unique. With nothing more than what they can carry, millions of children, women and men are escaping from violence and persecution in Syria, where war has now raged for over six years. Along with Darie and her family, Turkey, the country with the world’s largest number of refugees, is hosting 2.7 million Syrians. They all have the same hopes: a life lived in peace, to be reunited with loved ones and a better future for the next generation.

Although Darie is grateful for the life she’s made in Turkey, her family is far from whole. Her husband, Salahaddin Kakeeh, escaped to Germany last September. He hopes to clear the way for Darie and Mayas to join him, but they’re not sure when they’ll be together again.

I have friends, but this is not something permanent. My husband is not here. I miss my research. I want to teach in a university.

With generous donors by our side, USA for UNHCR is determined to reach as many refugees as possible — from Syria to South Sudan, Europe, the Central African Republic, Ukraine and crisis points all over the world. Until they have a home again, the UN Refugee Agency will provide the protection, shelter, healthcare, education — and hope — they need to carry on.

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