In our trip to Istanbul, we met with Syrian opposition leader Khaled Khoja. It was an extremely interesting experience meeting such a major player in the Syrian conflict. Mr. Khoja walked into the restaurant with what seemed to be armored cars and a bodyguard to protect him. These precautionary measures show how serious the conflict that Mr. Khoja is involved in is.
Mr. Khoja started by telling us about his background and how he got reached the position he is at today. Mr. Khoja was born in Damascus and earned a degree in medicine from a university in Izmir. He has also established many opposition groups against the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad. For example, he helped establish the Syrian National Council in 2011. The Syrian National Council is an opposition group based in Istanbul formed as a reaction against Assad’s oppressive actions in Syria.
Mr. Khoja is now the leader of the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces. He quite candidly discussed with us the conflict in Syria and what measures he is taking to combat Assad’s regime. He said that his main goal is to bring an end to the adversity that the Syrian people are facing under Assad’s regime. He emphasized to us the atrocities being committed by Assad’s regime and told us that his peoples’ suffering is what motivates him to be a part of the opposition. Having been born in Damascus, he has direct ties to the people that are suffering there.
Much of the information I learned in this meeting directly relates to my research, as part of my research explores how the increase in Syrian refugees has affected the socioeconomic and political atmosphere in Turkey. The discussion with Mr. Khoja highlighted the plight of the Syrian people and the dangers they face. I now understand what the Syrian refugees in Istanbul are up against. This is certainly not a meeting that I will be forgetting, and it has provided me with great insight into the Syrian conflict and the status of the Syrian refugees in Istanbul.