The Qnushyo, meaning ‘gathering’ or ‘collecting’ in Assyrian, hold, as a center, activities and events for those people from Syria in Istanbul. The overall aim of the Qnushyo is to improve health, offer activities and community building as well as increased cultural knowledge, peace dialogue, and integration in society. The aims, more specifically, are to:
- Gather together and activate the people while in Istanbul and to help them to stay in Turkey under positive circumstances
- Help distressed individuals to reach better mental health
- Create opportunities for the individuals to help each other
- Take advantage of and build on the group’s previous knowledge and skills
- Teach and develop cultural knowledge while in Istanbul
Syria is currently experiencing a devastating war and a forced migration. About 4.6 million individuals have left Syria and 7.6 million people are internally displaced within the country (UNHCR and Syria Regional Refugee Response - 2016). Officially, 2,9 million Syrians are registered in Turkey (UNHCR - 2017).
The Assyrians, including all the linguistic and denominational branches such as East and Western, Chaldean, and Syriac, are a native population of north Mesopotamia, focused around the Euphrates and the Tigris rivers. Today, the population is scattered between the southeast Turkey, Syria, Iraq and Iran. The majority of the Assyrians belong to the Syriac-Orthodox Church, Church of the East, Chaldean Church while other Assyrians are Syriac Catholics or Syriac Protestants. During late 20th Century many of them migrated to Western countries. Today, they are once again forced to flee from their homes.
Many Christians from Syria are currently living outside of camps in Turkey. This leads to a limited access to some health services in Turkey. In addition, there is no organized psychosocial service for the group in Turkey.
In Istanbul, some of the Assyrian refugees live in well-organized but crowded housings. During the first years in Istanbul, the community was characterized by no structured activities for the adults while the children did not attend school or any kind of instruction. In addition to these issues there were no mental health resources available for the community and there was widespread evidence of trauma symptoms, depressive behaviors and a sense of hopelessness.
In dialogue with the community members and the housing organizers a vision came to life of a space where Assyrians from Syria and neighbouring areas could gather and for themselves organize a variety of activities.