Syrian's tailoring skill suits the needs of refugees in Iraq camp

Telling the Human Story, 3 January 2013

© UNHCR/B.Sokol
Diar with the press that he brought with him to Domiz Camp, northern Iraq.

DOMIZ CAMP, Iraq, January 3 (UNHCR) Often fleeing with nothing but the clothes on their back, refugees are usually dependent on help from others, including host communities, UNHCR and its many partners.

But for Syrian refugee Diar,* 32, exile provided an opportunity for self-sufficiency and financial independence. Within two months of his arrival at Domiz Camp in July, Diar had opened his own successful tailor shop, serving both fellow Syrian refugees as well as the local community. Originally from Al Hassakeh governorate in north-eastern Syria, Diar previously ran his own tailor shop for many years in Damascus.

"I have four brothers and five sisters," he said recently as he pressed one of his client's shirts in his small shop. "I am the eldest and I have a lot of responsibility besides my father. I managed to have my own tailor shop and I was very happy. I helped my younger brothers and sisters to go to school, and I feel very proud about that," Diar added.

"I experienced two explosions quite close to me in Damascus. Luckily I survived. But I could not handle it anymore and I had to leave to protect myself and my family. I left with my whole family, and I brought this pressing machine with me to the camp so I could iron clothes."

Diar and his family are among almost 60,000 Syrian refugees who have arrived in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq since the Syrian conflict started in March 2011. Currently, some 31,000 refugees are living in Domiz.

The tailor opened his eight-square-metre shop within his family's camp space in September. Soon, business was booming. "After I arrived with my family, UNHCR provided us with accommodation, and supported me with getting electricity for the shop."

Rashid,* aged 18, arrived at Domiz camp four months ago. He is now one of Diar's many satisfied customers. "It is cheaper for me to get my clothes fixed here than to go outside the camp," Rashid said recently while he waited for Diar to fix a pair of pants. "I also get better quality and better service from Diar. I tried him before, and I believe he is an excellent tailor."

Diar's clientele has also expanded beyond the camp and now includes many locals. Fifty-three-year-old Shada is from the Domiz neighborhood and was recently in the camp to get new dresses made by Diar for her two daughters. "I am very pleased by Diar's work," she said. "I have been to his shop three times before and he is a skillful tailor. And I pay half the price, compared to tailors in my neighborhood. I've told other ladies in the neighborhood about Diar as well."

The growth of small-scale shops and a camp economy in Domiz is helping to ease pressure on agencies already providing nearly all of the basic needs required by the refugees. It also gives the refugees a sense of community. Diar, for example, earns US$15-US$20 a day, which enables him to support his family.

"The fact that UNHCR provided me with a place to live and with electricity to run my business allowed me to offer a low price to the refugees in the camp and to the local community," Dior said with a satisfied smile as he served one of his customers.

* Names changed for protection reasons.

By Mohammed Abu Asaker in Domiz Camp, Iraq

• DONATE NOW •

 

• GET INVOLVED • • STAY INFORMED •

UNHCR country pages

Iraq Crisis: Urgent Appeal

Make a gift now to help protect and assist those fleeing violence in Iraq.

Donate to this crisis

CAR Crisis: Urgent Appeal

Make a gift now to help protect and assist those fleeing violence in Central African Republic.

Donate to this crisis

Crisis in Iraq: Displacement

UNHCR and its partners estimate that out of a total population of 26 million, some 1.9 million Iraqis are currently displaced internally and more than 2 million others have fled to nearby countries. While many people were displaced before 2003, increasing numbers of Iraqis are now fleeing escalating sectarian, ethnic and general violence. Since January 2006, UNHCR estimates that more than 800,000 Iraqis have been uprooted and that 40,000 to 50,000 continue to flee their homes every month. UNHCR anticipates there will be approximately 2.3 million internally displaced people within Iraq by the end of 2007. The refugee agency and its partners have provided emergency assistance, shelter and legal aid to displaced Iraqis where security has allowed.

In January 2007, UNHCR launched an initial appeal for US$60 million to fund its Iraq programme. Despite security issues for humanitarian workers inside the country, UNHCR and partners hope to continue helping up to 250,000 of the most vulnerable internally displaced Iraqis and their host communities

Posted on 12 June 2007

Crisis in Iraq: Displacement

UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Angelina Jolie meets Iraqi refugees in Syria

UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Angelina Jolie returned to the Syrian capital Damascus on 2 October, 2009 to meet Iraqi refugees two years after her last visit. The award-winning American actress, accompanied by her partner Brad Pitt, took the opportunity to urge the international community not to forget the hundreds of thousands of Iraqi refugees who remain in exile despite a relative improvement in the security situation in their homeland. Jolie said most Iraqi refugees cannot return to Iraq in view of the severe trauma they experienced there, the uncertainty linked to the coming Iraqi elections, the security issues and the lack of basic services. They will need continued support from the international community, she said. The Goodwill Ambassador visited the homes of two vulnerable Iraqi families in the Jaramana district of southern Damascus. She was particularly moved during a meeting with a woman from a religious minority who told Jolie how she was physically abused and her son tortured after being abducted earlier this year in Iraq and held for days. They decided to flee to Syria, which has been a generous host to refugees.

UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Angelina Jolie meets Iraqi refugees in Syria

Angelina Jolie returns to Iraq, urges support for the displaced

UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Angelina Jolie returned to Iraq in July 2009 to offer support to the hundreds of thousands of Iraqis who remain displaced within their own country.

During her day-long visit to Baghdad, UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Angelina Jolie visited a makeshift settlement for internally displaced people in north-west Baghdad where she met families displaced from the district of Abu Ghraib, located to the west of Baghdad, and from the western suburbs of the capital.

Despite the difficulties in Iraq, Jolie said this was a moment of opportunity for Iraqis to rebuild their lives. "This is a moment where things seem to be improving on the ground, but Iraqis need a lot of support and help to rebuild their lives."

UNHCR estimates that 1.6 million Iraqis were internally displaced by a wave of sectarian warfare that erupted in February 2006 after the bombing of a mosque in the ancient city of Samarra. Almost 300,000 people have returned to their homes amid a general improvement in the security situation since mid-2008.

Angelina Jolie returns to Iraq, urges support for the displaced

Iraq: Heartbreak at the BorderPlay video

Iraq: Heartbreak at the Border

As the Syria crisis enters a fifth year, Syrians continue to seek safety abroad. But desperation is driving some to return to their war-torn country.
Iraq: Angelina Jolie Visits Displaced IraqisPlay video

Iraq: Angelina Jolie Visits Displaced Iraqis

UNHCR Special Envoy Angelina Jolie recently visited internally displaced Iraqis living in an informal settlement and a formal camp at Khanke, near Dohuk. There, she heard dramatic stories of escape from the more than 20,000 Yazidis who fled Sinjar and surrounding areas last August.
Responding to Syria's Tragedy Play video

Responding to Syria's Tragedy

As Syria's war heads towards a fifth year, the United Nations and partners today launched a major new humanitarian and development appeal, requesting over US$8.4 billion in funds to help nearly 18 million people in Syria and across the region in 2015