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From Aleppo, Syria
now in Gaziantep, Turkey
Left Syria March 2013
The scar on Baraa Hamid’s back is about the size of a quarter.
She has a slightly smaller one in front, near her collarbone, where a surgeon removed the sniper’s bullet.
An estimated 125,000 people have died in Syria’s civil war, and Hamid, now 18, came a hair away from being added to that total in the summer of 2012.
She and her family were trying to flee their home town, Aleppo, to escape the fighting. She was riding in the back of a pickup truck with her mother, her brother, her brother’s wife and their five children.
Hamid’s mother, Shukriya Hamid, was sitting next to her when she was hit. They say it was a Syrian government sniper targeting cars coming from parts of the city controlled by rebels.
“I have never seen so much blood,” her mother says.
Hamid remembers that she couldn’t speak. She remembers being afraid that her family would be shot, too. They rushed her to the closest hospital, and after her surgery they fled Aleppo for the family’s village in the countryside so Hamid could recuperate.
Seven months ago, they left Syria with nothing but their clothes. Now they are among the 100,000 refugees who live in this city in Turkey’s hot, flat south, about an hour from the border. They live in a neighborhood where Syrians and poor Turks mingle; Syrian men walk the streets looking for odd jobs while Turkish women sit in circles, cracking walnuts to sell.
Hamid sleeps in a room with her mother and six other family members. Her brother and his wife sleep in a second bedroom. They are connected by a hallway, where they share a fridge and a small propane stove.
Each day, a Turkish businessman in the neighborhood drops off a bundle of 100 pairs of “Joyland” jeans, made from cheap, thin denim. She and her mother use small scissors to snip away at stray threads, ragged belt loops and other imperfections to get the jeans into sellable shape.
Finishing 100 pairs of jeans takes a whole day. For that, she is paid $2.50.
“It’s something,” she says. “At least we can buy bread with it.”
Up and down the street, other Syrian women sit in their doorways working on bundles of jeans. The businessman, a stern-looking man in a black leather jacket, stops by occasionally to pick up the finished piles and load them into his car.
Hamid is a pretty young woman with a shy smile and frosted highlights in her honey-colored hair, which she keeps modestly tucked under a thin scarf. She wears jeans and a beige hoodie that says “Property of Abercrombie NY.”
She rarely leaves the house — she knows no one and does not speak Turkish. She misses her house and her friends in Aleppo, and she misses their long walks around the campus of Aleppo University.
Even before they decided to flee she had to drop out of school because her family couldn’t afford the fees.
“I had a dream to finish my studies, but I couldn’t,” she says. “I would love to be in school.”
She is determined to go back to Syria someday, but she knows it could take many years.
“Even though I was shot,” she says, “I would go back.”
She still has trouble carrying anything heavy, and on cold days her arm and shoulder still hurt from the bullet wound. She and her mother sit for hours snipping jeans in the tiny room that now defines their life.
Every day, about 3,000 Syrians leave the country.
Since you started reading, roughly ## Syrians have left the country.