You can see Syria from the highlands of Mardin. Though it’s now closed, this is the border that thousands of refugees have crossed to get to safety in the past four-and-a-half years. Many have moved on since, but more than 100,000 Syrians have made a home here, in southeast Turkey.
With its narrow alleys and stone staircases, the town of Mardin overlooks the green Mesopotamian valley. Assyrians, Mongols, Armenians, Egyptians and Turks have lived within its ancient walls since the Third Century. Today, Mardin is a rare example of cohabitation between Muslims, Jews, Christians and Yazidis. The Ulu mosque was once the Church of St Thomas, and it’s frequent to hear a conversation started in Turkish being finished in Arabic or Kurdish, or to see a Christian and a Muslim converse around a tea or a beer.
The neighborhood of Station sits on the town’s periphery, on the road that leads to the airport and a bit further, to the border with Syria. Children play on the abandoned train track that cuts through a group of crumbling buildings where they live. With little to do but work and wait for the day they can return home, these young refugees have few distractions. The founders of Her Yerde Sanat, though, are trying to change that.
The school is a place where Turks, Syrians, and Iraqis can connect, in a society where racism towards refugees is rife. Kubra, (right), is a student who wants to specialize in child psychology.
A cultural education can pull children out of their refugee status
Created by Pinar Demiral and Serdal Adam in 2011, the circus school, whose name translates to “Art Everywhere,” teaches juggling, stilt walking, and the trapeze, as well as Arabic and Turkish language. It was designed as a place to share and learn, offering a “normal” lifestyle to kids who have lost everything.
The day begins with circus workshops. Troupes that pass through the area, like Circus Road Trip, come to share their teachings in scarf acrobatics, ball balancing, or the trapeze.