Displaced Syrians Describe Their Personal 'Hell'

Article Summary
Refugees forced to flee fierce fighting along Syria's borders with Turkey find themselves stranded in frontier towns without food, water or electricity. Serkan Ocak meets some of the families laying low in a region swarming with secret police as summer temperatures soar to more than 130 degrees.

The tension in the Syrian Kurdish village of Qamishli can be felt in Nusaybin, on the Turkish side of the border. The people of Qamishli are in distress. “We have no electricity, prices have gone sky high and there is no food,” residents say.

After the Kurds seized several towns in northern Syria, the civil war across the border has taken on another dimension for Turkey. Following the Kurdish takeover of Afrin, Amude and others, all eyes are now on Qamishli. It is 55 degrees Celsius [131 degrees Farenheit] here. This author is in Nusaybin standing next to the minefield along the border, only a couple hundred meters from Qamishli.

There are reports that Bashar al-Assad regime forces have left Qamishli, but nobody believes them. The people of Nusaybin are anxious. Until yesterday, relatives were visiting each other. That calm has evaporated. There are two to three million Kurds living in Syria, of which 500,000 live in Damascus and 600,000 live in Aleppo. Qamishli holds a special significance for the Kurds. We spoke to some residents through their relatives in Nusaybin. More than the clashes, they are afraid of the mukhabarat [Syrian secret police], with whom they have had bitter experiences. They say that a couple of months ago two children had their throats slit because they spoke out against Assad.

“Like Hell”

The first person we spoke to said: “The Syrian soldiers are all over the place. They are not only Syrians; there are many others we don’t recognize. They are all in civilian clothing. They check our identification but we can’t ask whose soldiers they are. For a week now we have not been able to find an open shop. Yesterday I went out to look, and one shopkeeper took me in. Get what you want and go back home quickly, he told me. He closed the shop after I left. We have two hours of electricity per day, and for three days, we had none. Last night we had one hour of power. When there is no electricity, there is no water. The temperature is above 50 degrees. The air conditioners don’t work, the refrigerators don’t work, there is no food. This place is like hell.”

“Clashes Can Break Out Any Moment”

Another resident of Qamishli said: “There are no vegetables, no fruits — nothing. A couple of weeks ago, tomatoes were being sold at ten kurush [6c]. Now they are seven and a half Turkish lira [$4]. People can’t go to their fields. They are stuck at home. Shops don’t open. Yesterday we had to eat things that animals wouldn’t. At the moment it is not only Assad's men, but all other forces who are also oppressing us. We can’t go out. If we do, we are scared. We can’t even go to buy bread. We don’t know who is from the Free Syrian Army, who is a Syrian soldier and who is a Kurdish militiaman. We are on the brink of battles.”

People of Nusaybin are also afraid of clashes breaking out. Emin Deniz said that those in the area had been living peacefully for years. People from both sides of the border visited each other regularly and marriages between the two towns were frequent. Deniz is afraid that this atmosphere of peace will be gone forever.

Found in: turkey, syrian crisis, syrian crackdown, syrian, refugees, qamishli, kurds

Cookies help us deliver our services. By using them you accept our use of cookies. Learn more... X