Internally Displaced Women Run restaurant in Syria’s north Aleppo Countryside

This report by Dijla Khalil was published by North Press Agency on 14 June, 2021

Along with three other displaced women, Zeyneb Battal, an IDP [internally displaced person] from the city of Afrin, northwest Syria, is busy preparing kibbeh (a fried ball of spiced ground meat, onions, and grain, popular in Middle Eastern cuisine) and other dishes in a small restaurant in the town of Fafeen in the northern Aleppo countryside.

A month ago, with the support of Women’s Board of the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria (AANES), Battal, who is residing in Berkhwadan Camp in the northern countryside of Aleppo, managed to open a restaurant serving home-cooked dishes in Fafeen.

In the restaurant, whose Kurdish name Jiyan means “life,” four IDP women from Afrin work from 7:00 AM to 8:00 PM.

Jiyan Restaurant offers different dishes including popular local cuisine such as shawarma and falafel, western dishes like pizza, and food deliveries, though the star of the restaurant’s menu is its homemade kibbeh.   

The restaurant can prepare food for about 500 individuals, according to Battal.

Operation Olive Branch, carried out by Turkish forces and Turkish-backed armed groups against Afrin city in 2018, displaced more than 300,000 people, according to the Human Rights Organization in Afrin.  

Some IDPs fled to camps including al-Awda, Afrin, Berkhwadan, Sardam, and Shahba, while others are spread across 42 villages in the northern countryside of Aleppo.

Before her displacement, Battal had worked in a restaurant in Afrin for five years, through which she gained the experience of preparing home-cooked dishes.

She expressed her eagerness to start this project, since she has always dreamt of it, but her poor material conditions prevented her from doing so.

Fortunately, Battal sent a request to the Women’s Board in the northern countryside of Aleppo to help her, and they, in turn, approved and financed it.

Meanwhile, Berivan Kilsho, an IDP woman from Afrin and a customer at the restaurant, believes, “It is a good step that empowers women.”

The restaurant’s popularity can be attributed to its offering of popular home-cooked dishes. Moreover, those who are running the project are planning to expand their project and offer job opportunities to more displaced women.

“It is a positive step, since those who work outside their houses for long hours are forced to eat in the market; some people cannot accept eating at the market, as the food of the market is unhealthy…this restaurant that offers home-cooked meals is a good choice,” Shero Hussein, an IDP from Afrin, said.

It is worth mentioning that support goes to small and medium projects in the area as a result of instability, AANES Women’s Board head in north Aleppo countryside, Zaloukh Rashid, said.

Since Turkey took control over Afrin, villages which are not Turkish-held areas in Sherawa district, south of Afrin, in addition to villages and towns where Afrin IDPs reside, have been witnessing almost daily artillery shelling, leaving human and material losses.

Meanwhile, Rashid expressed their readiness to provide support other projects “if well experienced women applied for them.”