Baking bread on the Syrian border

A Turkish bakery is producing 170,000 loaves of bread per day and sending them to Syria’s needy.

Reyhanli has changed dramatically over the past five years. As the war in Syria has dragged on, the sleepy border town has become a major transit hub, the first port of call for refugees crossing over from Aleppo and Idlib. 

Every day, dozens of families make their way through the town, their lives packed away in a few suitcases. People move in one direction and aid flows in the other.

It was in Reyhanli, while filming another story in Turkey, that I met a baker named Radwan Alsaid. The bakery that he works at is far from normal. 

Radwan and his mostly Syrian colleagues work shifts to keep the ovens running 24 hours a day. They produce about 170,000 flat breads, six days a week.

The small army of staff have a positive vibe about them, they feel a purpose in their work. Their bread is shipped back to Syria.

The project is managed by Insani Yardim Vakfi (IHH), one of Turkey’s biggest relief foundations, with funding from Gulf based organisation “Qatar Charity”.

One IHH staffer that I met at the bakery, Burak Karacaolu, told me how they previously shipped flour directly to bakers in Syria.

But with their bakeries being regularly targeted, two years ago they decided that it would be more effective to produce the bread in Turkey and ship it to the needy.

The 120 million loaves of bread baked to date are sent to Aleppo, Homs, Idlib, and other locations. The machinery of this mammoth operation takes up the entire floor-space of a large warehouse on the edge of Reyhanli.

Cramped conditions and harsh winters

Back at Radwan’s home, coffee was poured for our team. His wife and children share a small apartment with his brother’s family.

He tells me that those with the means rent small apartments like his, but that a shortage of housing has meant that many of the town’s shop-fronts have also been converted into rented living spaces.

The cramped conditions aren’t comfortable, particularly in the harsh winters. Those who can’t pay fare even worse, resorting to erecting tents by the side of the highway from whatever they can salvage.

Radwan knows he’s relatively better off than many others. His work lets him provide basic needs for his family, such as medicine, food, and an education.

We are living, eating and drinking and things are almost going well,” he tells me. “I’m worried about the future of my children because there’s no stability.

“For example, I don’t know how I will pay for their university fees. But I always say thank God for the things Turkey offered to the Syrian refugees. Thank God I managed to work in this bakery.”

Source: Al Jazeera