the story of how it all began

The initial talks about composing a book based on oral history interviews with selected Syrian refugee women began in August 2015. After a series of correspondences both for funding and access to the narrators/refugees, the project took start in Istanbul in February 2016. The start-up fund was procured by the Santa-Fe based philanthropist and author Sallie Bingham and further contribution was made by the poet and licensed clinical social worker Jude Deason. The access to the first two women refugees were made possible by Dr. Alp Biricik (Refugee Support Program Coordinator) and Nilgun Yildirim at the Human Resources Development Foundation’s Esenler office. The third contact was made possible by Diala Halloum who was working at Badael’s Istanbul office in Spring 2016, which resulted in a positive domino effect, taking me to Canada, Germany, and Sweden respectively. The pool of questions for the extensive interviews was adapted from Robert Atkinson’s The Life Story Interview while several changes were made due to diverse cultural and geographical context and each narrator’s situation. The audio files are transcribed and available in English.

on stereotypes & Representations

How do stereotypes emerge? To which extent are they determined by historical or ideological circumstances, or else by cultural, literary or discursive conventions? Imagology is an interdisciplinary and comparative area of study and engages in extensive cross-referencing. Constructed images can be ethnocentric, sexist and racist among having other discriminatory affiliations, and their contraction is intertwined with a complicated process of “othering”. What is unknown is dangerous so defining it gives access to have control over it and to dominate it. Simultaneously, they can be tremendously misleading and most of them are “taken for granted”. This book project is a corrective attempt to go against the currents of the mass media and pigeonholing that the politicians in power create.

Many years have passed since I backpacked in Europe and repeatedly heard "You don’t look or act like a Turk." I also heard the inappropriate question "Are you Muslim?" I myself fell into the same tricky and sticky traps of stereotyping at times even when I didn't articulate them. Many wars have been fought both in and outside of me since then. The most recent one has been in our neighboring country of Syria, where, in the past six years, hundreds of thousands of Syrians came to Turkey. I always wonder how many Turks have communicated with them. My narrators told me that most Turks that talked to them commented, “Oh, you don’t look or act like a Syrian!” They were not asked the question about their religion; it was assumed that they are Muslims.

For some of my work on representations and oral history, see below:

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