Scenes of humanity from the Syrian border

Scenes of humanity from the Syrian border

Kızıltepe / Mardin: I had never seen a child suffering from meningitis before. He was lying motionless on a bed made up on the floor at the corner of the room. His eyes were fixed at the ceiling; there was no movement in his eyes. I could not understand during the 10 minutes I was in the room whether he noticed me or not.

Three-year-old Halid emigrated to Turkey with his family one and a half years ago from  Serekaniye right across Şanlıurfa’s Ceylanpınar district after their town was bombed for days. With his mother, father and three siblings, they first went to the refugee camp at Ceylanpınar, but Halid’s illness was noticed while there. They were sent to a hospital in Diyarbakır, but the treatment did not yield any results. The family took the child to Mardin Kızıltepe’s Şenyurt.

Şenyurt is a small settlement of 2,000 people, one of the two border gates of Mardin to Syria. Halid’s family has rented a room in a village house here, paying 100 Turkish Liras monthly. Father Şiar was a butcher in Syria; he works daily jobs now. He said he works for 20 liras daily, but jobs are not available all the time. “Sometimes, I cannot find work for 10 days,” he said.

Şenyurt is an important observation point in terms of seeing the dimensions of the Syrian refugee problem at a micro-scale. Even a short tour of Şenyurt is enough to understand the seriousness of the situation.

A crowded family with children is waiting at the park right next to the border to return to Syria. Because they have missed the closing hour of the border post, they have to wait until the next morning.

While we were talking to the soldiers at the post, a small Syrian child accompanied us and did not leave. He emigrated alone from Syria and now lives all by himself at the border. His name is Ahmet. He said his father was not alive and he lost his mother in the war. The war has made him drift him from Syria to Şenyurt. Villagers there take care of him.

A remarkable humanitarian story is waiting for us at the ground floor of a back alley. Nurse Nadire Demircan is hosting a Syrian family with four children. She has allocated a room in her house for them. They have separated the living space with separators.

Demircan said, “They were just sitting there out in the open. I saw them there for three consecutive days, and then at the end, I told them: ‘Come here, stay here.’ We are four they are six, we became 10 people. We share the food cooked in the house. We did not only open our house for them, we opened our hearts.” One of the guests Muhammad answered our questions: “We came here because of hunger. Many of our relatives were killed.” Demircan translated from Kurdish.     

The separator cannot separate the children in the house. They play together and sometimes have disputes. Demircan said her children did not want to share their toys at first.

War refugees prefer to live in another country’s land in very difficult conditions, sometimes fighting hunger and poverty. They prefer it over hunger and war in their own country.

Muhammad and family are lucky because they have been hosted in a house, whereas Fahreddin and wife, who also have four children, live in a derelict storage-like place that has a weak dam, but no walls. They sleep in beds on the floor there. Fahreddin said, “We were hungry; that’s why we came here. The people in this village take care of us.”

One notable aspect is that even though there are many refugee camps around, many of the refugees try to survive by working in towns or villages despite the threat of hunger and all its difficulties instead of living in a camp atmosphere.

It is estimated that around 24-25,000 refugees live in Kızıltepe district. The population of the town is 225,000. The number of refugees in Mardin province is estimated to be 60,000. 

The number of Syrian refugees living outside camps in Turkey is over 1 million, including Ahmet and Halid. All of them are trying to stand on their feet in Turkey, trying to construct a new life…

Ahmet is one of them, a child who has become the mascot of the railway station and the village, who spends most of his time playing there. When it comes to Halid, it is not yet clear that he will be able to hold on to his life…

PS: I conveyed the situation of Halid suffering from meningitis to Mardin governor Mustafa Taşkesen and Kızıltepe district Governor Erdoğan Ermiş. Halid was taken to the Kızıltepe State Hospital in an ambulance by a doctor who visited him in the morning of June 14. Apparently, he is in an advanced stage of the illness. The Office of the District Governor said on the evening of June 16 that he would probably be transferred to a hospital in Ankara.