Arts & Life
Fragile truce in Idlib relies on Turkey's aid
Fragile truce in Idlib relies on Turkey's aid
Some of the people who had to flee the Syrian town of Khan Sheikhoun, where at least 100 people were reportedly killed in a chemical weapons attack in April, in southern Idlib, just 130 kilometers from Turkey’s Cilvegözü border crossing on the Syrian border, are now going back to their hometown. Click through for the story in photos by Hürriyet's Fevzi Kızılkoyun...
Locals say they are still anxious, fearing further attacks and clashes even if life is slowly returning to normal in Idlib and surrounding areas.
After a Sept. 17 meeting in Sochi between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin, the two sides agreed to set up a demilitarized zone - in which acts of aggression are expressly prohibited - in the northwestern Syrian province of Idlib.
But exchanges of shelling have been common since then and the first air strikes since the deal hit the area on Nov. 25.
As part of efforts to help the locals, the Turkish Red Crescent opened a kindergarten for 55 orphans who lost their parents in the conflict. Volunteer Syrian teachers are working in the facility, while the Red Crescent meets all the needs of the children.
The Turkish agency also opened a tailoring shop in the district which employs local women. A total of 40 women have already started to work at the facility. The Red Crescent provided all the necessary equipment such as sewing machines, fabrics, and sewing needles.
The products produced by those women are purchased by the Red Crescent which later distributes to individuals in need. The tailoring shop is helping women contribute to their families’ income.
Kerem Kınık, head of the Red Crescent, attended the inauguration of the kindergarten and the tailoring shop on Dec. 1.
Kınık told reporters that the Turkish agency had sent more than 42,000 trucks of humanitarian aid to Syria over the past eight years.
“Humanitarian aid is being shipped to Afrin, al-Bab, Jarablus and Idlib from Turkey each day,” Kınık said.
“More than 5 million of them have fled the country while nearly 7 million Syrians have been displaced inside Syria. Around 5 million of those domestically displaced people live in the area encompassing Afrin, Idlib and Jarablus,” he added.
According to Kınık, more than 200,000 Syrians have returned to their countries after Turkey’s military operations Euphrates Shield and Olive Branch.
The military operations in northwestern Syria that were launched to clear the region of YPG and ISIL militants made the return of Syrian civilians to their homeland possible, he said.
Operation Euphrates Shield was launched in 2016, while Operation Olive Branch earlier this year on Jan. 20.
Keteybe Kizaybi, who lost two cousins, said several people died in attacks carried out by the Syrian regime.
“We were able to return home thanks to the relatively peaceful environment that Turkey greatly contributed to create. But we still fear that there could be new attacks. Our only assurance is Turkey,” Kizaybi said.
Fatma Al Mustafa, who works as a volunteer in the kindergarten, noted that those children continue their education with Turkey’s help and aid.
Ladik Funda, a five-year-old, is one of the students at the kindergarten. Her mother died in a bombardment and her father’s whereabouts is unknown. Nurabi Mustafa, another child, has fear in his eyes even when he plays with his toys at the nursery.
Erdoğan told Putin on Dec. 1 that they should hold another summit to discuss the situation in Idlib province where the two countries are trying to create a sustainable demilitarized zone.
As diplomatic efforts have intensified to find a solution, Turkey is working to help life return to normal in Idlib, authorities and locals say.
Under the terms of the deal, opposition groups in Idlib will remain in areas in which they are already present, while Russia and Turkey will carry out joint patrols in the area to prevent a resumption of fighting.
But exchanges of shelling have been common since then and the first air strikes since the deal hit the area on Nov. 25. Fevzi Kızılkoyun / Selahattin Sönmez / IDLIB
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