BARDARASH REFUGEE CAMP, IRAQ, NOVEMBER 2019
A month after the Turkish offensive in northeastern Syria in October 2019, the Bardarash refugee camp receives Syrians in exile.
A few kilometers from Bardarash, in the Governorate of Dohuk in northern Iraq, the tents of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) have taken over the place. While in 2013 the camp housed Iraqis fleeing the Islamic State, today nearly 12,000 Syrians are crammed under the tents.
The prospects for those who wish to leave the camp are slim. You have to obtain asylum papers and have a direct relative in Iraq to settle outside the camp. For the others, it will be waiting or returning to Syria.
Daily life is taking shape in the camp. Those who have family in Iraq to support them or who brought money to invest are organizing businesses in the camp.
While grocery stores are present at every crossroads, hairdressers and barbers also appear. The camp of Bardarash is slowly transforming into a city.
But food is scarce. Apart from the basket distributed by the World Food Program (WFP) on arrival, some refugees complain that they have not received food for nearly three weeks.
When questioned, some parents admit that they send their children to beg from the neighbors.
A situation that is difficult to maintain without the means to leave the camp or to pay for food in the adjacent stores.
A few days before the attack, Erdogan was broadcasting threats every night on television “we will attack Serekanyie, we will attack! Khalil and his family only left when the attacks began on October 9.
The Syrian Kurdish authorities asked the inhabitants to flee for their lives. The entire town took to the road on foot, motorcycle or otherwise. “Maybe 400,000 people were on the road”.
Arriving with her son, his son’s wife and her young daughter, Sebiha has a brother in Suleimaniye whom she hopes to join soon.
Despite the danger, many are still IDPs in Syria.
The amount to pay smugglers to come to Iraq is too expensive for her brother and his family, so they are stuck in Syria. From $200 per person a few weeks ago, the price has risen to $400, even $500.
“The international community is deaf, blind and silent about what is happening against our people. If we were to talk about our pain and suffering, three books would not be enough to contain it all.
Ali came with his four daughters and his wife from Afrin. But there are more than 20 of them, including the extended family.
Afrin is a remote area and the Kurds there have been IDP’d eight times without ever finding a refuge. Everywhere they have gone they have been attacked. All they want is a peaceful situation, to find a job and live.
Their community has lost many people in the war with DAESH. And yet civilians have continued to be oppressed, attacked and persecuted again and again.
“And here we are, the last safe place we could find. We hope that the international community, including the United Nations, will help our community that has been persecuted for so long.
The day before they were able to bake bread. They were just happy to have survived.
Mohamed was injured in the 2018 attacks. Following an explosion, stones flew and hit his face and the back of his head.
Since then, he has been unable to sleep, his body shakes, his vision darkens, he can no longer tolerate sunlight, he is angry and aggressive.
He has 5 children to take care of and wants to leave the camp for an urban area to work.
Their house was located near the Turkish border. The army shelled his town indiscriminately.
Erdahan came with her son Walid and his wife and young daughter.
Walid’s 15 year old niece was injured during the attacks. She lost a lot of blood but was able to be evacuated and treated. She is now in Syrian Kurdistan.
As soon as they heard that President Donald Trump had decided to withdraw U.S. troops, they picked up what they could and left. “Bad news travels fast. Their village is not yet fully evacuated.