Turkey hosts more than 3,5 million refugees from war-ravaged Syria. Only 10 percent live in camps, the majority has settled down in mostly urban areas. More than 70 percent are under the age of 30. Over the past year there have been signs of an intensification of negative stereotyping and distancing between the host population and Syrian refugees in Turkey. Among Turkish residents, the perception that the two communities have little in common is on the rise. The children left behind by the Syrian war trying to survive both inside Syria and in neighbouring countries are still affected and need help in many areas ranging from education to healthcare, food, security, psychological support and rehabilitation. According to the Ministry of National Education, 385,000 refugee children in Turkey (37% of the total number of Syrian school-aged children) remain out of school, despite tremendous achievements that doubled the number of Syrian children enrolled in schools as compared to 3 years ago.
At Martial Arts for Peace we combine the practice of martial arts with educational programmes & youth work to build self-confident resilient individuals and communities. At our regional hub in Turkey we provide safe spaces for meaningful social interaction and intercultural exchange between the two populations and strengthen the capacities of our network of martial arts instructors who provide empowering martial arts practice to vulnerable target groups (including unaccompanied/separated refugee children, out-of-school children, people with disabilities, victims of bullying, and of gender-based violence).
The aim of our martial arts & life skills summer camp planned for end of August in Gaziantep is to target 20 Turkish and Syrian Martial Arts Instructors from our network representing different martial arts styles (Karate, Taekwondo, Capoeira, Kickboxing, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Escrima, Wing Chun, Wrestling, Muay Thai, Judo, Aikido, Mixed Martial Arts, …) and regions in Turkey (Gaziantep, Sanliurfa, Hatay, Kilis, Istanbul) and to strengthen their knowledge and capacities on empowering martial arts practice i.e. on how to use martial arts for promotion of life skills, personal development, intercultural and peace education, social inclusion and psychosocial wellbeing.
100 vulnerable children from host and Syrian and other refugee communities (50% girls) will become part of empowering martial arts lessons (previous martial arts experience is not necessarily required), and over the course of 2 days will participate in confidence building games and exercises, crafts, outdoor activities, rhythmic and music sessions. They will move together in harmony (Bruce Lees philosophy of unity in diversity) putting together a single performance that will showcase different martial art styles.