A Turkish Educator Wants to Open Up a University for Syrian Refugees

He’s pledged $10 million dollars of his own money towards the college project.

Syrian refugees in a camp in Turkey. Photo by Flickr user Freedom House.

A Turkish businessman and educator has pledged $10 million towards the establishment of a university for Syrian refugees that have been displaced by the war and continuing violence in their homecountry. Enver Yucel, who has opened a number of private univiersities and operates K-12 private schools in Turkey, is hoping to attract the goodwill of international investors to fund the rest of the project. He recently sent a delegation to Reyhanli, where a large refugee camp is located, to meet with Syrian educators.

An entire generation of Syrian children and students has been completely disenfranchised by the civil war and their resulting displacement. Many of them left their homes in the middle of completing degrees or before finishing primary school. And because they don’t speak or read and write in Turkish, they have difficulty integrating into the Turkish school system. Additionally, they face escalating anger and virulent racism from their country hosts, who blame the refugees for job and housing shortages. Although Yucel’s project has been stalled over anti-immigrant sentiment, he appears determined in his belief that what’s best for the refugees is best for Turkey overall.

"We need to invest in their education and we need to invest in gaining them some skills," Yucel told NPR.

The Syrian refugee crisis will be an era-defining tragedy, one that history will look back on with regret. In the past four years, an estimated 9 million Syrians have been uprooted from their homes only to embark on a demoralizing search for asylum and security. One million of these refugees have found tenuous refuge in neighboring Turkey. Although many Syrians arrived at Turkey’s borders with the intention of staying only for a short term, they find themselves forced to begin their lives in a new country—they have started businesses, gotten married, and taken full-time jobs.

"A huge amount of them will not go back," he told NPR. "The ones who are guests in our country will become citizens of our country in the future."

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