Dreams and stories in the refugees’ tents in Shehba

The work of Heyva Sor a Kurd to alleviate the pain of the people of Afrin.

Among the things that struck delegations going to Shehba refugee camps is the determination of the people of Afrin who have been forced to leave their homes and land to avoid being massacred by the invading Turkish army and its mercenary allies.

Determination in all its declination: they were determined to resist during the occupation and under the bombs, and they did so for 58 days.

They were determined to quickly set up a camp with basic facilities to guarantee a shelter for the elderly and the children.

Now in the camp, they are determined to guarantee education continuity to their children, and for this they have converted some of the tents into classes.

They are determined to live as they were living in Afrin, through the Democratic Autonomy self-administration, which is running the daily life of the camp.

But perhaps what they are more determined to do is to go back to their city. To Afrin, that city they had transformed in a place distant from war, even if it is in war-thorn Syria.

A city where everyone was welcome, regardless their identity, language, culture. Indeed, precisely because of the model of co-existence practiced in Afrin, many people fleeing from other cities and regions of Syria to avoid being murdered by DAESH or the Syrian regime, found in Afrin a second home.

These refugees were welcomed in Afrin and basic facilities were immediately set up for them.

Solidarity and inclusiveness which are two of the pillars of the Autonomous-Administration.

Representatives of Heyva Sor a Kurd Italia and UIKI (both part of the Campaign for Afrin), arrived in Shehba were the local branch of the organisation met them.

Heyva Sor a Kurd is coordinating all aid coming to the camps in Shehba and also provides help and advise to those organisations wanting to support the people of Afrin.

The Italian representatives were in Shehba to deliver medicines and money for food packages to be distributed to the population.

The people in Shehba despite the efficiency of Heyva Sor a Kurd and the Autonomous Administration of Afrin are experiencing so many shortages and difficulties.

There are two main camps in Shehba, named Berxwedan (Resistance) and Serdem (Epochal) plus a number of smaller camps.

Heyva Sor a Kurd put up a thousand tents in Berxwedan camp, immediately after the people moved out of Afrin. Now each tent is very crowded. Indeed it is estimated that around 150,000 people fled Afrin when the Turkish army and its mercenary allies occupied the city.

The problems in the camps are many, from lack of drinking water to shortage of food, to lack of medicines. “Even basic things like antidote for snake bites (many in the area, together with scorpions) is missing”, said one of the Heyva Sor volunteer.

The Autonomous Administration members took the decision to evacuate the city of Afrin in order to prevent massacres, after the Turkish army and its mercenaries entered on 14 March. They are all living in the camps. They live in tents with their citizens. They did not abandon them and in fact have been organising and coordinating aid since the very beginning.

Slowly they have been turning tents into classes so to allow the thousands of kids who have been deprived of their right to education by Turkey and its mercenary allies, to continue their education. Yet books are lacking, as well as pencils and notebooks. The kids seat in the tents, under the torrid heat (temperature can reach 50 degrees here), on the floor, listening to their teachers and asking to the foreign visitors when they will be allowed to return to their schools in Afrin, to their houses, to their life.

The world has watched in silence while Turkey, blinded by the government-induced hate towards, not just Kurds but the whole of the Democratic Confederalism project.

For Turkish president Erdogan the governance model practiced in the Northern Syria Federation-Rojava is an anathema and its level of ‘democracy-phoby’ joined to the genocidal policy against Kurds and all different cultures and nations for what matters, even led to planning a change in the demography of the region.

Turkey is actually bringing hundreds of DAESH mercenaries and their families to Afrin and settling them in the city and nearby villages.

Despite the shortages and difficulties they have to endure the people of Afrin keeps asking one thing: When are we going back to Afrin?

They know they cannot go back, under occupation, and for this they call on the international community and organisations to do their part and stop being silence.

Heyva Sor and the Autonomous Administration say that the return of citizens to Afrin could only be possible with international aid and monitoring. Because citizens can only return to a safe city, and unfortunately the stories coming from Afrin and the surrounding villages are appalling. Stories of abduction, rape, torture, death.

Some of the refugees in the Shehba camp tells of what families and friends who had stayed behind and recently managed to reach the camps are barely able to tell. “The mercenaries and Turkish troops have destroyed the city. - said Hamude - They took down our statues, violate our graves, rape our women, they plunder our homes, turned schools into detention and torture centres. They even took down signposts in Kurdish and replace them with Turkish ones. They force the Ezidis to go to mosques, they force children to speak Turkish. They cut olive trees”… and the stories of this atrocity can go on forever.

Aisha tells of her neighbours who went back to Afrin to see what had happened to their house and land and were killed, mercilessly by the mercenaries.

Again, the people of Afrin blame the international community for standing in silence watching while of this brutality was unleashed…

“Many elderly people have died - said one of the doctor, Mihemed - they were not ill, their heart stopped beating, they just couldn’t take this anymore”.

There are problems with medicine supplies, explain Mihemed, especially with medicines for chronic diseases like diabetes or asthma.