P.R. is a 34-year-old woman who took refuge in order to escape male violence and have a better life. She is now living in Altindağ district of Turkey’s capital, Ankara, and spoke to Jin News.
Originally from Afghanistan, she was born in a refugee camp in Iran after her family fled to Iran in 1985, after the Soviet-Afghan war in Afghanistan. Born and raised as a refugee in Isfahan, Iran, she faced discriminatory state policies against refugees from an early age.
She was forced to marry when she was 20, and faced domestic violence throughout her marriage. She was living in another refugee camp in Khuzestan province of Iran during those years.
She describes camp life at that time: “Mostly, Afghans were staying in the camp. We lived there in very small rooms. We lived in a 50-square-foot house. Not everyone could work freely. They only let men work. Women were not allowed to work. They had to get permission to work and when women wanted to work, they had to get a document from the camp and they couldn’t get out of town without it.”
P. R. stayed in the camp with her two children and her husband for eight years. When her husband left the family and settled in Afghanistan, she decided to leave Iran to start a new life.
“It was hard living in the camp. There were a lot of men there and I didn’t feel safe. My children were not safe. After my husband left, my parents wanted me to live with them. They were going to decide about me, my life and I didn’t want to live with them, so I decided to leave the camp and come to Turkey in 2019.”
After travelling through a risky road, climbing mountains and walking for days, she arrived at the Turkish border with her children. “After we arrived in Turkey, we were given a temporary ID. I could register my kids in school with that ID. Immediately afterwards, the coronavirus [pandemic] came and everything started to get very bad.”
The situation was not easy for her in Turkey either. She was working in a hairdressers to learn the profession but due to the pandemic and measures taken, she was forced to stop her work.
“I also lost my job after the coronavirus problem. I cannot make a living. Sometimes I can’t buy anything to eat and I have to borrow money. My health insurance has expired. I have kidney disease and need surgery. I’m not psychologically feeling well either. But I can’t go to the doctor.”
Her ex-husband continues to threaten her and P.R. says she doesn’t feel safe. Moreover, her children have been subjected to racist attacks a couple of times in Ankara. The neighbourhood they live is close to the place where racist violence broke out against Syrians and Afghans on 14 August.
“My children have been beaten a few times, subjected to violence, so they are afraid to go out. I couldn’t go to the police station and file a criminal complaint because if I did, the neighbourhood would be hostile to us. The police do not interfere much in this neighbourhood either. I’m afraid to go out because my kids are being attacked,” she said.