Eat away your worries: Syrian opens Istanbul diner chain to unite refugees

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Syrian refugees in Turkey, particularly those residing in Istanbul, suffer from the high cost of living.

Some, however, have faced their struggles and managed to startup businesses to earn a living.

It's an honor that any Syrian (of any affiliation) comes to my restaurants so we practice real democracy.

Mohammad Bitar

Mohammad Bitar, from Syria's Zabadani, worked as a teacher before the revolution erupted in 2011. He later worked as a cook and he now owns a restaurant chain in Istanbul.

His nickname is now the “father of the Syrians” as he welcomes thousands of Syrian refugees and is well-known as the owner of the “al-Tarboush” restaurant chain in Istanbul.

His restaurants unite Syrians who originate from all over the war-torn country, he says.

"It's an honor that any Syrian (of any affiliation) comes to my restaurants so we can practice real democracy which this country (Turkey) has allowed us. We were deprived of everything in Syria," Bitar told Al Arabiya this week.

The Syrian uprising changed Bitar's life. He became a refugee in Turkey after working as a teacher and so he decided to start all over again.

He opened the first of his restaurants without substantial capital. With hard work and perseverance, he eventually developed his business and he now owns three restaurants and a bakery.

There are at least 376,640 Syrian refugees in Turkey out of 1.6 million Syrian displaced in neighboring countries. The vast majority of refugees are dependent on aid, arriving at refugee camps with little more than the clothes on their backs.

Bitar said that it was difficult at the beginning to start up due to limited financial resources and high living costs.

Ultimately, Bitar wants to send Syrian refugees a message that although life is hard, one must go on because the world doesn't come to a halt.

Bitar misses Syria, and hopes his restaurant chain will continue to unite all Syrians.

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