People in Idlib pray for bad weather to prevent air strikes
Levent Kulu – IDLIB
Idlib, located within a de-escalation zone in Syria, has been under the control of opposition forces since 2015.
Life was expected to return to normal after a ceasefire was announced in the region, but never did.
Syrian regime forces and Russian aircrafts have carried out consecutive attacks on the region.
Thousands of people who took refuge in Idlib, considering it to be a safe zone, had to take migration routes again.
I am going to the Turkish border province of Hatay first in order to follow the developments in the region.
In the Reyhanlı district of Hatay, you can hear the sounds of bombs coming from Syria. It is not easy to cross the border into Syrian territory. I ask for help from the Turkish Red Crescent, which continues its humanitarian aid in the region.
Together with the Red Crescent teams, I pass through Bab al-Hawa Border Gate and reach Idlib, which has almost become a ghost town. Nearly 4 million people live in the Idlib region.
There are refugee camps in the region close to the border with Turkey, and the biggest of these camps is Atme. People are on foot and have been on the move since airstrikes started in the region.
Along the way, I come across families looking for a safe area, stuffing their household items on their vans.
Tents set up on olive groves, fields and roadsides
Intra-regional crossings are recorded at established control points.
I also visit Hazzano, 20 kilometers from Idlib. The camp here is called Ejhel, which has about 400 tents, with five people in each tent.
However, everyone here has fled the war and does not prefer tent cities. There are also many large and small tents set up on olive groves, fields and roadsides. These sometimes turn into small tent cities with the arrival of relatives.
Red Crescent officers are trying to respond to all demands. The latest demand of the people in the camp is to set up tents for new arrivals. And the officers are setting up new tents immediately.
While walking in the Ejhel camp, which has become a sea of mud, I met Omar from Aleppo. When the war intensified in Aleppo, Omar moved to Maaret El Numan with his family, which he believes is safer.
The specter of war, however, did not leave them. He points at the face of his three-year-old daughter, Nadima, whose hand he’s holding tightly.
Nadima's face, noticed even from a distance and covered with her blonde hair, has several burns, a result of an airstrike carried out by regime forces a year ago.
“Assad did this,” he says, in anger.
'Drones are flying above us'
My last stop in the region is the Tayba Orphanage, whose population is 700 and is home to many Syrian children who have lost their families in war.
We offer children what we brought with us, but our translator is nervous. He says that they hear sounds all the time and that they believe they can be drones.
“Drones are flying above us - we can hear but cannot see them. Maybe a threat to us even though we are on the road as a help convoy,” the translator says.
The people in Idlib have to live with this fear, he carries on.
People in the camps say they prayed the weather to be “bad,” because then drones would not be as successful in capturing pictures and footage. Drones, however, don’t only take pictures, they are also a part of the air strikes.
As we leave the Syrian territory, we witness that a bomb was dropped 5-10 kilometers away.
Our convoy is speeding towards Turkey, which is a secure region. It is typical to be constantly on alert here.
Turkish Red Crescent's compassion stores
Seven “Compassion Stores” opened by the Turkish Red Crescent have been meeting the clothing and footwear needs of the people of the region for three-and-half years.
In the compassion stores, shopping is done with coupons distributed by the Turkish Red Crescent as if it were purchased from the store.
Compassion stores have distributed approximately four million pieces of clothing to a million people until today.
Turkish Red Crescent officials state that the main purpose of love boutiques is to keep people away from war psychology by providing psychosocial support.
I have the opportunity to go around in the compassion store in Sarmada.
The bread oven run by the Turkish Red Crescent is also my second stop in Sarmada.
Some 150,000 breads are made in the Turkish Red Crescent’s bakeries and distributed to the people in the tent cities.
The biggest victims of the war in Syria are children.
Many of the families left their homes thinking about their children’s lives and settled in places they saw safe.
The children have lost their school and their future.
Even if they live in mud or fear for their lives, they try to remain positive.
Playing games at the wheel of a toy, a candy or a scrapped truck is enough to make them happy.