In Turkey, small sums go a long way as Syria kids go back to school

Syrian children in their classroom at Sehit Duran primary school in Adana. (AFP)
Updated 26 March 2019
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In Turkey, small sums go a long way as Syria kids go back to school

  • The money is part of the Conditional Cash Transfer for Education program

ADANA: Like many students of her age, 16-year-old refugee Fatmeh dreams of becoming a doctor. And a modest monthly sum of less than 10 euros could make all the difference.

Originally from the Syrian city of Aleppo, the teenager has been living in Adana in southern Turkey for six years with her father and three small brothers.

To help feed the family, the father sells Syrian pastries that she helps make at home.

“I missed the first term of school to help my dad look after my three little brothers and prepare the pastries,” she told AFP between classes at public school in Adana.

Fatmeh is one of 460,000 refugees in Turkey — most of them Syrian — whose family benefits from monthly supplements aimed at keeping school-age children in class rather than out working.

The money — 35-50 Turkish lira for boys, and 40-60 lira for girls ($6-$11/5-9 euros) —  is part of the Conditional Cash Transfer for Education program, funded by international sources like the European Union and managed by the UN children’s fund UNICEF, the Red Cross and the Turkish authorities.

If the sums seem meager, it can be a boon for poor Syrian families who often live on basic aid and informal work, especially those with several school-age children.

The amount is similar to that given to Turkish families by the social services so as to avoid complaints that Syrian refugees get preferential treatment, says Mathias Eick, a spokesman for the EU’s humanitarian operations.

“We’ve assigned €86 million  to the program to date,” he told AFP.

Turkey is home to around 3.5 million Syrian refugees, and most of those benefitting from the program are Syrian.

According to UNICEF data, around 600,000 school-age Syrian children are in education in Turkey while another 400,000 are not.

Hundreds, perhaps thousands of students who have officially signed up for classes end up skipping school to work and help their families survive.

At Fatmeh’s school in Adana, teachers listed absent students and contacted their parents to persuade them to let their children return, with the program as an incentive.

“The teachers in school were able to persuade my father by explaining how the aid could help,” she said. “It wasn’t hard because he always pushed me to go to school, but it was me who helped out in the house.”

Twelve-year-old Moussab, also from Aleppo, found himself back at school three weeks ago after missing the first term.

“We needed the money so I skipped school to work in a tailor’s workshop. I earned 500 lira a month,” he said.

Reem Zeidane, one of the school’s administrators, said last month they managed to bring back 45 of the 150 children who were absent from classes.

“This payment makes a big difference for the families, especially those who have four or five children,” Zeidane said.

Turkish authorities and UNICEF have also set up a “non-formal” education program, including Turkish courses, for refugee children and adolescents who have not attended school for at least three years.

As part of this program, 13-year-old Ali takes Turkish lessons every morning in a youth center in Adana. In the afternoon, he works in a car workshop for a monthly salary of 400 lira.

Ali’s father, Hamza, is unemployed after two accidents at work, and his mother is ill. With four sisters, three of them in school, he is the main breadwinner.

“If one day our situation improves, I’ll quit work and sign up for school,” he said.


‘Hypocrite’ Rouhani rejects war as Iran’s drones target Saudi civilians

Updated 19 June 2019
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‘Hypocrite’ Rouhani rejects war as Iran’s drones target Saudi civilians

  • Tehran regime has fanned sectarian flames in region for four decades, analyst tells Arab News
  • IRGC chief says Iranian missiles capable of hitting "carriers in the sea" with great precision

JEDDAH: Iran “will not wage war against any nation,” President Hassan Rouhani said on Tuesday — hours after two drones launched by Iran-backed Houthi militias in Yemen targeted civilians in southern Saudi Arabia.

Rouhani's statement sounded a note of restraint after the United States announced more troop deployments to the Middle East.

“Iran will not wage war against any nation,” he said in a speech broadcast live on state TV. “Despite all of the Americans’ efforts in the region and their desire to cut off our ties with all of the world and their desire to keep Iran secluded, they have been unsuccessful.”

But he was also contradicted by the commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), Gen. Hossein Salami, who said Iran’s ballistic missile technology had changed the balance of power in the Middle East.

“These missiles can hit, with great precision, carriers in the sea ... they are domestically produced and are difficult to intercept and hit with other missiles,” Salami said.

He said Iran's ballistic missile technology had changed the balance of power in the Middle East.

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Before both men spoke, Saudi air defenses intercepted and shot down two Houthi drones packed with explosives. One targeted a civilian area in the southern city of Abha, and the second was shot down in Yemeni air space. There were no casualties, the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen said.

Rouhani’s offer to avoid war was “the height of hypocrisy,” the Saudi political analyst and international relations scholar Dr. Hamdan Al-Shehri told Arab News.

“Rouhani is the biggest hypocrite in the world,” he said. “On the one hand, he is saying that Iran does not seek a conflict with anybody, and on the other it is launching attacks through its militias on oil tankers, oil pipelines, civilian airports and holy cities.

“This is nothing but the height of hypocrisy. Who does he think he is fooling with those words? Why are they enriching uranium? Why are they seeking nuclear bombs? What have they done over the past four decades? They have only caused trouble. They have only fanned sectarian flames in the region.”

The Saudi Cabinet, meeting in Jeddah, also condemned the Houthi attacks on Saudi civilians, and last week’s terrorist attacks on two tankers in the Gulf of Oman, widely blamed on Iran. 

 

Confrontation fears

Fears of a confrontation between Iran and its long-time foe the United States have mounted since Thursday when two oil tankers were attacked near the strategic Strait of Hormuz shipping lane, which Washington blamed on Tehran.

Iran denied involvement in the attacks and said on Monday it would soon breach limits on how much enriched uranium it can stockpile under a 2015 nuclear deal, which had sought to limit its nuclear capabilities.

Exceeding the uranium cap at the heart of the accord would prompt a diplomatic crisis, forcing the other signatories, which include China, Russia and European powers, to confront Iran.

The standoff drew a call for caution from China. Its top diplomat warned that the world should not open a “Pandora’s Box” in the Middle East, as he denounced US pressure on Iran and called on it not to drop out of the landmark nuclear deal.

Russia urged restraint on all sides.

On Monday, Iranian officials made several assertive comments about security, including the secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, Ali Shamkhani, who said Tehran was responsible for security in the Gulf and urged US forces to leave the region.

Acting US Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan on Monday announced the deployment of about 1,000 more troops to the Middle East for what he said were defensive purposes, citing concerns about a threat from Iran.

The new US deployment is in addition to a 1,500-troop increase announced last month in response to tanker attacks in May. Washington previously tightened sanctions, ordering all countries and companies to halt imports of Iranian oil or be banished from the global financial system.


'Nuclear blackmail'

Iran’s announcement on Monday that it would soon breach limits on how much enriched uranium it can stockpile under the deal was denounced by a White House National Security Council spokesman as “nuclear blackmail.”

The move further undermines the nuclear pact, but Rouhani said on Monday the collapse of the deal would not be in the interests of the region or the world.

The nuclear deal seeks to head off any pathway to an Iranian nuclear bomb in return for the removal of most international sanctions.

Speaking in Beijing, Chinese State Councilor Wang Yi said the United States should not use “extreme pressure” to resolve issues with Iran.

Wang told reporters China, a close energy partner of Iran, was “of course, very concerned” about the situation in the Gulf and with Iran, and called on all sides to ease tension.

“We call on all sides to remain rational and exercise restraint, and not take any escalatory actions that irritate regional tensions, and not open a Pandora’s box,” Wang said.

“In particular, the US side should alter its extreme pressure methods,” Wang said. “Any unilateral behavior has no basis in international law. Not only will it not resolve the problem, it will only create an even greater crisis.”

Wang also said the Iran nuclear deal was the only feasible way to resolve its nuclear issue, and urged Iran to be prudent.

European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said the EU would only react to any breach if the International Atomic Energy Agency formally identified one.

The Trump administration says the deal, negotiated by Democratic President Barack Obama, was flawed as it is not permanent, does not address Iran’s missile program and does not punish it for waging proxy wars in other Middle East countries.