Supporting diaspora artisans from Palmyra

In 25 June 2020, YETIM SULTAN HAYIR İŞLERİ DERNEĞİ applied for funding from the ALIPH Foundation, within the framework of the 2020-1876 COVID-19 Emergency Grant, to be able to create a small income-generating project for refugee artisans from Palmyra. We chose just eight craftsmen and women who suffer economically, due to the lack of income, and whose crafts are in danger of disappearing. The project was approved in January 2021. Through this project we identified and found some of the most popular craftsmen and craftswomen from Palmyra who had become refugees in Turkey. Initially, we chose to focus on 8 of the most popular crafts in Palmyra:

  1. Canvas embroidery and needlepoint.
  2. Cloth weaving using a handloom.
  3. Shoemaker’s and leather crafts.
  4. Wood burning and leather.
  5. Bead embroidery and weaving.
  6. Painting using sand.
  7. Mosaic decoration.
  8. Plaster crafts for ancient buildings.

Many other handicrafts were practiced in Palmyra, but we have no information about them, and could not locate craftspeople who practiced them.

We worked with those we did select to identify their needs, and were able to support them with equipment and technical tools. We then created a digital market using the project website of the project to promote their products. The most famous of these products are: embroideries, handmade carpets, bags and shoes, and other leather goods, decorative sand bottles, wood pieces, and mosaics.

Meet our artisans and craftspeople

Hajer Al Shafi
Following my graduation from high school, I worked in Palmyra in handicrafts such as knitting, embroidery, crochet and hand loom. I was lucky as it was a hobby and I have a love for this work more than a job. I learned it from my mother and grandmothers when I was a child. In Turkey, I worked in the same field, but developed these handcrafts to become a source of my livelihood. The one I focused on most is the loom, because the loom is part of the heritage of my city, Palmyra. I hope that can teach it to new generations in this host country the way I learned from my grandmother.
Sawsan Hamada
I hold a Bachelor’s Degree from the Faculty of Sharia, Damascus University and I used to work in Palmyra as a teacher for Islamic education. After I left Palmyra in 2015 with my family, we initially settled in Gaziantep, before heading to Istanbul in 2016, where we still live now. I learned to make mosaics from my husband here in Turkey, and I worked with him as a trainee for 4 years until I started work myself with A3 and A4 pictures, the size of this picture. Making mosaics has been known for hundreds of years in Palmyra – if we want to know this profession simply, we start from the beginning.
Zainab Muhammad
I have loved drawing since I was a child, and I studied at the Institute for Preparation of Teachers, specializing in drawing. I went on to work in Palmyra as a teacher of drawing. I was interested in drawing by burning on leather and wood, and I participated in many local exhibitions. My family and I left Palmyra in 2015 and lived in Mansoura for a while, but in 2016 we entered Turkey and settled in Iskenderun. I tried to continue my work in this profession, but due to our limited financial means, and my preoccupation with supporting my children. I was not able to do much. Thanks to God, after this support, I was able to buy the materials and necessary tools to continue my work. This is the way I have been taught to do drawing by burning on leather and wood
Madiha Al-Abdullah
After I graduated from middle school, I worked in Palmyra in hand embroidery. I left Palmyra with my family in 2012, because my husband and children have become wanted by the regime. At first, we went to the city of Al-Qaryatayn, and when we felt in danger, we decided to go to Jordan. My young children and I went there alone, and from Jordan we travelled to Turkey, where we were reunited with my husband and older son. We have been living in Reyhanli city since 2013. Here in Turkey I continued to work in the hand embroidery and developed this profession which became my sustenance.
Raghda Jumaa
I learned hand embroidery in 1990 with a charity in Palmyra and I continued to learn for about two years. I worked in this profession until 2015, when my family and I left Palmyra and settled here in Istanbul, but I had no opportunity to work as an embroiderer until I received support from this project.
Ziyad Muhammad al-Ahmad
After I graduated from middle school, I learned the art of painting with sand in Palmyra. However, in 2015, my family and I left Palmyra and headed to Turkey, where we lived in Reyhanli for several months before moving to Izmir, where we are still living today. I had no opportunity in Turkey to work in the profession of painting with sands until I received support from this project.
Waddah Awad Al Skafi
After I graduated from middle school, I worked in Palmyra, where my profession was making leather shoes and bags. Like so many others, I left with Palmyra with my family in 2015. We settled in Raqqa for a while, and then moved to Idlib until we were able to enter Turkey, where we settled in Reyhanli. I could no longer work in my profession here in Turkey until received support from this project. I would like to share the process with you. In making shoes and leather bags: