In celebration of International Migrants day, IOM Turkey participated in the Global Migration Film Festival by having over 50 screenings in 7 cities across Turkey. The screenings took place in Ankara, İzmir, İstanbul, Şanlıurfa, Adana, Hatay and Gaziantep, showing a selection of films that enlightened the over 1000 people in attendance of the difficult circumstances that migrants and refuges from different parts of the world face every day.  

In Gaziantep, the film “The Guest from Aleppo to Istanbul” was screened to an audience that consisted of local NGOs, universities, INGOs, government stakeholders as well as migrants and refugees. In attendance was a very unique guest. Fatima, 34, from Syria, who had seen the poster promoting the screening and decided to come watch the film.  

For the first time in her life, Fatima was going to watch a film in a cinema on the big screen. Fatima decided to watch “The Guest” because of the similarities the film had to her real life story. “When I heard that the film was about a Syrian woman who had fled Syria and was trying to protect her neighbor’s children in Turkey, I was encouraged to see the film,” explained Fatima.  

The film follows the journey of Lena and Meryem, who fled the war in Syria. Lena is a ten-year-old girl who lost her family in the war. She finds herself forced to make her way to Turkey with her baby sister and their neighbor Meryem, along with other refugees. 

Fatima, had never been to a cinema because there weren’t any in her village in Syria and the nearest one was in a distant city. She had heard a lot about the cinema atmosphere from her current husband who also encouraged her to attend the IOM Turkey event. 

The first thing that amazed her was the sight of the big screen which also made her scared during the scenes that depicted scenes of conflict. “The flashbacks flickered in my head and my heart beat fast throughout the whole film,” Fatima described in an interview after the film. 

Back in Syria, Fatima was one of the few women in her society who was able to work and earn money to look after her family. It was very uncommon for women in her society to work, yet alone become a teacher like she was. Her strong personality and courage kept her working even after the conflict started and she found a way to help other women go through the war trauma until August 2019 when she had to flee to Turkey. “We were fleeing death. There was only 25 meters between us, and the target of the rockets,” said Fatima. 

The film “The Guest” reminded her of the days she left behind, thus after her first experience at  a cinema, Fatima had mixed feelings and believes that “such events are really important in showcasing the migrants’ and refugees’ experiences to make the public understand what they have been and are going through as migrants. The films also help people understand the challenges that force people to undertake the migration journey which are often very dangerous.” 

IOM launched The Global Migration Film Festival (GMFF) in 2016 to use films as educational tools that influence perceptions of and attitudes towards migrants, by bringing attention to social issues and creating safe spaces for respectful debate and interaction.