Izmir, Turkey -- Tuesday marked Children’s Day in Turkey, a national holiday celebrated widely throughout the country. Officially recognized as “National Sovereignty and Children’s Day”, April 23rd also marks the day the National Assembly of Turkey was founded in 1920.
IOM Turkey recognized the day with a special series of events across the country in the provinces of Hatay, Şanliurfa, Gaziantep, and Izmir. IOM Mobile Psychosocial Support teams organized activities with local partners, bringing together Turkish and Syrian refugee children and families.
I spent the day with our newest mobile team in the western city of Izmir, who started working in refugee settlements last September. Izmir is Turkey’s third largest city with a population of 4.3 million including 143,000 registered Syrian refugees. I hopped on a rented bus with our team and the Duvara Karşı Tiyatro Topluluğu theater group made up of two clowns, a pantomime, a witch, and a man on stilts.
Vedat Kuşku, the founder of the theater group, started it 26 years ago to bring art and comedy to the streets of Turkey. He is half Roma and half Armenian and says music and performance played an influential role in his childhood. He runs a small theater school in Izmir and many of his students join him in giving free public shows. “I don’t believe in borders between countries or people,” Vedat says in describing his group’s goal of making comedy accessible to all. The group has performed in refugee camps across southeastern Turkey, and more recently with IOM in the refugee tent settlements in Torbalı District in Izmir.