In June 2013, Leila knew that she lost at least fifteen pounds, especially after she learned the rules and procedure about transferring to a Turkish university. Unlike European countries, one didn’t lose years, the credits from the University of Aleppo would be accepted in Turkey and she could resume taking courses as an engineering student. When the parents were reluctant to let her live in a big city by herself, she stopped eating. “This should work,” she thought. “They can’t let me die of hunger, and they know how strong-minded I am.”

When the plane from Lebanon to Istanbul landed in Sabiha Gokcen Airport, Leila prayed that things go as smooth as possible. It was the first week of September 2013. Direct flights between Syria and Turkey stopped a while ago so her father had to drive her to Beirut. The farewell was difficult. Her father tried to hide his tears so he cut the scene short only to come back and hug her tight one more time. Leila was crying. Life wasn’t going to be easy for sure, but her love of Istanbul and her determination to get her degree in environmental engineering formed a strong base for facing the unknown challenges of her new life.

Lifelines: Syrian Womanhoods in Transition | Ozlem Ezer | Berkeley CMES