Hardships, heartbreak for fleeing Syrian Kurds

2014-09-23 05:00
Displaced Iraqis from the Yazidi community arrive at Nowruz camp, in Derike, Syria. (File, AP)

Displaced Iraqis from the Yazidi community arrive at Nowruz camp, in Derike, Syria. (File, AP)

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Yumurtalik - Osmane Sero has been at it since dawn, pacing back and forth in front of a line of Turkish police by the border with Syria.

Clutched in his wrinkled hand is his Syrian passport and a photograph of a smiling five-year-old girl.

Fleeing the advance of Islamic State group jihadists on Ain al-Arab, Syria's third-largest Kurdish town, the old man managed to find refuge in Turkey like tens of thousands of other Syrian Kurds.

But in the chaos reigning at the border, he lost track of his granddaughter Fatmah.

And he is exhausted.

"There were so many people that my granddaughter got lost," Sero said, his eyes red with fatigue. "Her father and mother got across, and so did I, but we don't know about her."

Ever since, the old man has lingered at the Yumurtalik border crossing a few kilometres from the city of Mursitpinar.

A little lost in this no man's land parched by a pitiless sun and covered in dust, the man repeats his story to anyone with any power, so far in vain.

"Here I am in the middle of nowhere, with nothing to eat or drink," he says. "The little girl needs medicine, and I don't even know where she is."

Suddenly Sero leaps into action for the umpteenth time.

A group of around 300 refugees has just entered an enclosure set up by AFAD, the Turkish government agency in charge of emergency situations, behind the blue police barrier.

Sleeping rough

It is the first batch of the day, mostly women, children and elderly people.

Their faces drawn but showing relief, they had spent the night a few metres (yards) away behind the barbed wire separating the two countries, at the mercy of the elements.

After frisking them for weapons, the Turkish authorities give them water and take down their names.

The refugees then board minibuses along with their bundles of possessions to be escorted to the next processing stage, set up at a converted playground.

The lucky ones will be assigned to a Turkish family that will take them in.

"We waited on the other side for three days. We were in a terrible situation," says Ahmed Rashade. "But we managed to get the children through," he said, clasping small blond children close to him.

"Their father is in Beirut. Their mother is already in Gaziantep [Turkey], so I had to bring them."

But not everyone is so lucky. Celal Hemze and his wife and children have been sleeping in the fields for several days ago and cannot take much more.

"We are living in terrible conditions," he grumbled. "The Turks aren't doing much for us. I called those in my family who are still in Kobane [the Kurdish name for Ain al-Arab] and told them to stay put. They are surely better off there than we are here."

AFAD local coordinator Fatih Ozer readily concedes that the situation is not easy.

"The massive influx can mean problems and risks. But since yesterday we have had a centre to register all the arrivals. We have taken in a million and a half Syrians in three years, so we have experience with this kind of situation and I hope the whole world will appreciate the scale of our humanitarian action."

Meanwhile Sero has not found Fatmah, who was not among the last refugees to get past the barbed wire of Yurmutalik. But her father, Hassan Sero, has not given up hope.

"Maybe she is waiting for us here in Turkey," he said.

Read more on:    isis  |  syria  |  turkey  |  syria conflict

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