From Damascus, Tala and her family arrived in Erbil, the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, on 16 April 2013. She describes herself as a migrant, and not a refugee, because her family made a collective decision to seek a better life elsewhere. Her family decided to leave Damascus as the conditions in Syria grew more dangerous and life there became more difficult. Her father, while on a business trip to Erbil, decided that the Kurdistan Region of Iraq would be the safest place for Tala, her mother, her two brothers and young sister.
“I used to study to become a pharmacist, and saw myself becoming a pharmacist. Then, everything changed.” Tala came home one night to find her street blocked off by police, firefighters and soldiers. Unable to reach her family, she feared for the worst. Shelling was approaching their area, so her father encouraged her family to leave Syria within the week.
“The people here in Erbil were really nice to us,” she said. “They wanted to help us with everything. At first I was depressed, not knowing what to do with my life, but I think I’ve coped well.” After witnessing the plight of refugees from Lebanon, Iraq and Palestine in her home country of Syria, Tala was inspired to work with those forced from their homes in Iraq. It seemed a natural fit for her – she had worked with refugees in Syria during the 2006 war in Lebanon.
Tala joined IOM Iraq’s health team to assist in delivering primary health care and tuberculosis treatment for displaced Syrians and Iraqis. She also supported the construction of a health clinic in Shekhan camp, in northern Iraq. She picked this camp as it didn’t have any primary health services and the host community around the camp also lacked health clinics and hospitals. “It gave me so much joy to know I was able to help people in such a way,” she said. Tala would like to keep working in the humanitarian sector. She misses her old life in Syria, and intends to move someday to Beirut, where she sees life as similar to Damascus before the war.
“It’s very hard, being a migrant,” she said. “I don’t have as many options as I had in Syria. You can live your life and think everything is fine, and then there’s suddenly a moment where you have to leave.”
Story broadcast on the National Public Radio (NPR)
"Resettled Syrian Says She's A Migrant, Not A Refugee"
September 24, 2015 | http://www.npr.org