Immigrants from the Rubar and Shahba Camps: Afrin is a safe haven, what do they want from us?
KARINCA NEWS – Rubar and Shahba camps. Thousands of Arab immigrants currently live in them. However, both camps are among places targeted by bombs in Turkey’s operation to Afrin. What do immigrants who fled from ISIS and the civil war in their country to those camps, as well as officers say about it? Currently Afrin-based journalist Fatma Koçak went to both camp sites to conduct interviews with them and reported her observations.
Special news and observations by Fatma Koçak
Five thousand and 835 million people have been displaced since the eruption of the Syrian crisis in 2011, according Syrian Network for Human Rights (SNHR). Fifty percent of the displaced persons are children, 35% are women and 15% are adult male. United Nations (UN) High Commissioner for Refugees also published a report confirming this input.
Same institutions also reported that while most of the immigrants fleeing the regions of intense war went off the country, those who preferred to change location within the country generally chose Rojava, the safe zone of North Syrian Federation. As it became a zone of neutrality in the war and the decentralized model of governing was created by the leading Kurds, people from many regions immigrated to Rojava.
On the other hand, in Northern Syria, the immigration was condensed toward Afrin that recently became the target of the attacks by Turkey and Free Syrian Army (FSA) groups, under the so-called “Olive Branch Operation”. Residents who formed an autonomous government with the canton system, created their administrative and self-defense units in Afrin where ISIS or similar groups could not infiltrate since the eruption of the Syrian crisis.
Before Turkey’s attacks to Afrin, which started 23 days ago, hundreds of thousands of immigrants have come here from the intense war zones of Homs, Idlib, Jarablus and al-Bab in the last four years. According to the data provided by the Immigration Office built for the immigrants’ need supply in Afrin Canton, there are 282 thousand immigrants who came to the districts and the villages of Afrin. Of course, these are only official numbers; it is assumed that this raises up to 400 thousand with the immigrants who were placed in Rajo, Jinderes, Sharawa, Şiyê and Mabata districts and villages.
Many of the immigrants who fled the war and the invasion of their region now live in the city center and villages, more than 10 thousand immigrants who came from Homs, Hama and Shahba are currently placed in Rubar and Shahba camps in Sharawa district. Based on the information provided by the Immigration Office, 70% of the immigrants in those camps are Arabs, with the remaining 30% being Kurds.
While both UN and European Union (EU) provided aid and support toward other countries where the Syrian immigrants fled, there were no aid or support for those who are in Afrin. Canton administration and Immigration Office provided aid along with some local support by supplying shelters and food for people in both camps.
Rubar camp was one of the targets of Turkey’s airstrikes on January 20th. Many immigrants were wounded during this attack. Currently the entourage of both camp sites are still under artillery shooting.
We went to Rubar and Shahba camps to talk with the immigrants and camp officers.
Nedim Oso who fled away from Shahba during ISIS attacks and who currently stays in Shahba camp says “These people embraced us, they gave shelter to me and to my family” and he adds “We came here and there were no wars. We have been here for the last one and a half year. But Turkish State, like ISIS, attacks us here as well. Every day, there are artillery shootings around the camp. Our lives are under serious threat.”
Hamdul El Saim who came to Shahba camp with his family after escaping the war from Wadi al-Azim village in Homs explains: “Our village was encircled by ISIS invasion for a month. They starved us for a month, we only ate wheat. We thought we were going to die but we were able to survive by escaping in the last minute”.
In Rubar camp, 72 years old Hasfa Ahmedi expresses that he would like to talk while sitting, since he has hard time standing. He tells that they fled from ISIS attacks in Babish village in Idlib and that they came to Afrin because ‘it was a safe place’. Ahmedi adds: “I call out to all states of the world. Everybody should see what is going on here and they should help us. But they don’t. We receive support only from the administration of Afrin Canton. When we get sick, most of the time we can’t find medicine. An embargo has been set for many years now. What do they want from us, what do they want from Afrin?”
Hiysem Cindo who had to flee the city with her children after Turkey invaded Al-Bab during ‘Operation Euphrates Shield’ is rather furious: “We escaped from them in al-Bab. Afrin was a safe haven for us. Now they came here and found us again. My husband is dead, where can I go from here with my five kids? What do they want from us? They should leave us in peace”.
“We can’t get any aid or support from international organizations”
Hiba Musa Şexo who is working in Immigration Office formed within Afrin Canton for the settlers of those camps, informed us that there has been a intense arrival from other regions to Afrin for the last four years.
“We first opened Rubar Camp. With the civilians who fled to Afrin from the intense attacks by the gangs in Syria’s other regions, we also opened Shahba Camp” explains Hiba who adds that, from the intense war zones in Syria, such as Hiba, Azaz, Idlib, Shahba, Homs and Hama, people came to Afrin for the last four years.
Şexo who underlines that they can’t get aid from any international organizations and that immigrants are sheltered under very hard circumstances, also expresses that they fear civilian deaths for the last 23 days. Şexo is calling upon international institutions including UN:
“On the first day, the aircrafts hit the region of Rubar camp. Everybody knows that there are people who fled the war. Still, artillery attacks around the camp continues every day. In both camps, 60 percent of the immigrants are women and children. If one of those artilleries hits the camp, this will be a massacre. The world should not remain silent to these.”
Photos: Ersin Çaksu