Sultan is 18 years old. She came to Turkey three years ago when she and her family fled from Syria. We met Sultan in April 2017 when visiting our production partner in Izmir where young Sultan found work.

Sultan keeps busy. She's an assistant on the production floor, taking care of legwork and bringing garments from one production step to the next. She looks focused, carefree and at home.

Sultan aus Syrien – ARMEDANGELS Blog - Eco & Fair Fashion

But Sultan has been in Turkey for only three years, and has just recently started working at the production site. Her mother and her seven (!) younger sisters stayed back in Aleppo while her father went to Turkey first. He made good use of the first two years in the neighboring country to find work and prepare everything for when his family could follow him.
"I like that I'm always on the move in my job. And I like helping others to be better at what they do."

The time came when the war got worse in their hometown. Sultan, her sisters and her mother were on their way – heading out to the Syrian border first, then to Izmir. Over 1000 kilometers – on foot!

Sultan aus Syrien – ARMEDANGELS Blog - Eco & Fair Fashion

Looking back at her old life in Aleppo, Sultan misses "having a real home" most. "Life was cheaper in Aleppo," she says. "We're back to square one now. We lost our house and pretty much everything we owned." They stay in touch with their relatives in Syria over the phone. But "the war's getting worse and worse. It's hard to find drinking water, food is very expensive and sometimes the electricity fails them for days on end."
"We want to stay in Turkey. There's nothing left at home."

That's why Sultan dreams of a Turkish passport. "My father has a good job now, he's head of production at a shoe factory. So we'd like to stay in Turkey. There's nothing left at home anyway."

Sultan aus Syrien – ARMEDANGELS Blog - Eco & Fair Fashion

This holds true for most of the Syrian refugees in Turkey. Their numbers are increasing steadily since the war broke out in 2011 – close to three million of them are registered in Turkey as of now. Again and again, there are articles on Syrian refugees, especially children, who have to work in horrible circumstances in the textile industry. They have no work permit and are therefore helpless when confronted with human rights abuse. They don't receive minimum wages, are discriminated against, and exploited.
Discrimination, human rights abuse, exploitation, no minimum wage

For our sustainability manager Julia, it's clear that we at ARMEDANGELS have to do our part to prevent this from happening: "Since the conflict in Syria is ongoing, people like Sultan and her family cannot go back to their home country. So we have to find ways to integrate them into society. You need jobs to do that. That's why we support our production partners that offer Syrian refugees a good and legal job in their facility."

"We explain everything they need to know to employ Syrians," Julia explains. "We put together a checklist with all the necessary information, also including our view on the situation. We took a stand as a customer. We then we offered a seminar by Fair Wear Foundation and it made us happy to find that all our partners willingly took part. The next step would be us supporting them in getting full work permits for the Syrian employees" – so that Sultan and her family have a real perspective.

Update (May 29, 2017) – Unfortunately, our manufacturer has let us know that Sultan quit her job shortly after our visit. We're investigating the reasons for her decision and will update this post as soon as we learn more.