Syrian Refugee Revives His Dream, Opens Bustling Restaurant in Turkey

İbrahim, in his new restaurant getting ready to for the lunch service. Gaziantep, Turkey. November 2019. © Nadine AL Lahham/IOM

Gaziantep – Before the war broke out, Ibrahim’s restaurant was a place that brought his community together over Syrian cuisine in Aleppo. A lifelong dream, his restaurant became a popular hit in the neighbourhood and allowed him to provide for his wife and three children.

As he was beginning to expand his business, the war broke out and he lost everything.

One night, a missile hit his restaurant destroying his only source of income within minutes. Life in Aleppo became too dangerous for Ibrahim and his family and they had no choice but to flee, seeking refuge in Gaziantep, Turkey in 2014.

Upon arrival, he searched for work for four months and had to borrow money to cover his family’s basic needs. Ibrahim suffered from a herniated disk injury whilst fleeing from Syria, limiting his ability to take physically intensive jobs. Life began to seem hopeless.

After receiving encouragement from his family, he took a risk and borrowed money to open a small restaurant in Gaziantep.

The restaurant soon became popular within his community and he started to become more financially independent. As his business grew, he required more funds to invest in a fridge or other equipment he needed to meet the demand of his customers.

In 2018, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) approached Ibrahim and informed him about the Quick Impact Grants Project under the Livelihoods Programme, which gives refugees and migrants the tools they need to open their own businesses. He applied for a grant from IOM to help him acquire the equipment he needed to increase his productivity.

Through the Livelihoods Programme, IOM provided Ibrahim with a fridge, tables and tools for him to sustain and expand his business.

“The project helped me a lot in my business and eased some of the stress and the frustration I used to feel,” explained Ibrahim.

The success of his restaurant compelled one of his relatives to invest in the further expansion of the restaurant, making it one of the most bustling restaurants in the community.

 “I always wanted to run a big restaurant and I finally have the chance to do that. I started from scratch with something small and now I am living my dream,” he added.

Ibrahim wants his children to be ambitious as he is.

“I feel proud when I see my son and daughter have big dreams like I did. My son wants to be a doctor and my daughter wants to be a teacher.  I want to work hard to be a good example for them and help them make their dreams come true as well.”

This project was funded by the United States Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration (PRM).

This story was written by Nadine Al Lahham, IOM Turkey Communications Assistant

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IOM’s Global Crisis Response Platform provides an overview of IOM’s plans and funding requirements to respond to the evolving needs and aspirations of those impacted by, or at risk of, crisis and displacement in 2020 and beyond. The Platform is regularly updated as crises evolve and new situations emerge.