Adnan Almohamad

Produced by: Sharq.Org
Part of the Curated Collection: Peaceful Coexistence in the Diaspora,
Original Interview Length:
Interview Location: Turkey
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Adnan Al-Mohamad is 40 years old. He used to travel frequently for his work as "a researcher in the field of Syrian antiquities." He currently lives in Turkey, but previously moved between France, Syria and Britain. He left his country, Syria, in 2014 to live in Turkey with his wife and three children due to the effects of war.

Adnan was a lecturer at the University of Aleppo in the Antiquities department and worked with the Director of Antiquities and Museums in Syria during his time there. He lived in his hometown of “Manbij”, which was taken over by the terrorist organisation ISIS, and this forced him to leave Syria and go to Turkey.

At the beginning, he worked in Turkey in the field of agriculture because, he says, “I did not speak the Turkish language. The language factor was crucial so I had to work picking olives, onions, oranges - most of it was agricultural work. The working hours were long - between 12 to 14 hours a day - and the wages were very low.”

Nevertheless, while working in agriculture, Adan gained a good knowledge of Turkish and began to integrate. He says, "The work helped me to integrate into society. I interacted with humble people since that is the nature of agricultural work, and that helped me a lot to integrate in Turkey.”

Nearly one year after his arrival in Turkey, Adnan began to learn basic Turkish language to improve his abilities. He followed a course offered by the government to Syrian refugees. He says, "I studied for about three months and then I had to stop because I was working and did not have time to complete the course.  At exam time, they contacted me so I sat the exams and passed. This helped me because my vocabulary became stronger for discussion, negotiation and communication with others."

While he was in Turkey, Adnan also improved his English in order to get better job opportunities and to integrate. He says that in 2015 he formed a team in Syria to document the damage that had been caused to ancient locations, and this was in English.  He was contacted by the “Day After” organisation and was offered a job opportunity to "restore my life as an academic and start my work as a specialist.”

In 2018, he went to Istanbul and came across an organization called Cara that helps Syrian academics. He succeeded in obtaining grants from them in Britain. He says, "I joined the first workshop and a program called "Syria Program" that offers small grants to support academics to write an article or return to their academic life. There are also grants for two-month research visits to Britain to meet with British academics."

In the first quarter of 2019, Adnan gained Turkish citizenship. This gave him resilience to change and satisfaction at being close to his family.  He says, "As a society, Turks had no problem with the Syrians.  On the contrary, when Syrians came, and I am one of them, they gave us a whole house of furniture. Of course, this is not a special case. They provided everything they could for refugees, person to person, and not as a government.  On the other hand, Adnan comments on some Syrians who engaged in behaviour that was considered disruptive in Turkish society, from staying up late on balconies to speaking loudly on the streets with other Syrian and hanging out late at night. Such behaviors did not exist in Turkey. He sees that in this way some refugees caused chaos in Turkish society.

Adnan lives in a city in a religious community that is almost Islamic. He says it is a quiet neighbourhood and he does not feel that religion matters to the Turks when it comes to integration. "On the contrary, the religious factor was not important to them. It could be from a political point of view but from my experience, no one asked me about my religion or whether I prayed or not.”

Adnan clearly indicates the social cooperation towards refugees that he experienced in Turkey. He remembers how "some of the Turks from this area spoke to me when I wanted to rent a house and they offered me help. They got together and told me not to buy anything and gave me many household items. They also introduced me to a charity association in the area that provided support. In return, I introduced new arrivals from Syria to this organisation.”

Adnan believes that for the past three years, the Syrian refugees have become the focal point of many problems in Turkey.  He says, "There is a conflict between the existing authority and the opposition about social problems regarding the Syrian presence in Turkey. There have been talks about the high number of Syrians and the economic activity in the country and its competitiveness. It has created a problem whose effects are becoming obvious today in the external environment and it is being wrongly handled.”