A straightforward question can mean more than we may ever know: Where are you from?
Questions like this are a reminder of the lost years and life of about 12 million stateless people in the world.
Gulcan, whose family fled Iraq 29 years ago and took refuge in Turkey, was born and raised in Balıkesir. Gulcan.
Now, she is a 19-year-old living without a nationality or an identity card for years.
Gülcan's family fled during the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait under Saddam Hussein in 1990 and took refuge in Turkey. The family settled in Balıkesir and lived there for years without an identity. In 2000, a daughter named Gülcan was born to the family. Gülcan also tried to lead a life without an identity for years. She was employed without insurance, could not vote in the elections, and could not benefit from an average Turkish citizen's rights.
When Gülcan realized that she could not obtain Turkish citizenship, she applied to the Iraqi Consulate to obtain Iraqi citizenship. The response she got there was, "You can't apply because you were not born or raised in Iraq...". Finally, Gülcan, who applied to the provincial immigration administration, was given a "Foreigner Identity Card." Gülcan describes her experiences as follows: "I am 19 years old now, and I live in the center of Balıkesir with my mother and brother. My whole family came to Turkey in 1990 because of the Gulf War. My mother and father had a residence permit. However, due to some ignorance, they could not get an identity card. As a result, they also lost their residence permit. When I was born, they did nothing to get an ID. I was born 19 years ago in a health center. My birth certificate etc., nothing. So I can't prove that I was born here right now."
Faced with adversity in many areas of life, Gülcan studied at schools as a guest student for years. Gülcan said, "But I am not a foreigner. This is my country," she says. Gülcan, who dreams of going to university, talks about her education life as: "We talked to the school because we live in a small place. I studied as a visiting student for six years without any registration. Then we had a refugee process: white identity, asylum seeker identity. So I applied to the school again with that identity card and continued where I left off. I am currently a high school graduate. I am preparing for university, and I will take the foreign student exam. But even if I win, I will not be able to benefit from the university student rights that a normal Turkish citizen enjoys."
'BEYOND IDENTITY, I am stateless….'
Gülcan could not understand that all the problems they experienced stemmed from her mother and father being fugitives after coming to Turkey from Iraq, but this situation hurt her. "I've never been to Iraq before. The fact that my mother and father are together in Iraq does not make me a local. I was born here. You are regarded as an asylum seeker in your own country, or when you go anywhere and give your identity, people's perception of you can change completely. In the field of health, in the field of education, I had a lot of difficulties. Being stateless is paralyzing me every step of the way.”
I have constantly faced the question, "How do you not have an identity? How can you be stateless? How should I explain it to them when I do not understand how."
There are millions of stories of statelessness; Gulcan is only one of them.