In This Syrian Refugee Camp, People Just Want to Go Home

In the Bab Al Salameh refugee camp in Syria along the Turkish border, living conditions are terrible in an absolute sense but somewhat better in a relative sense. It’s hot, there is no electricity and getting water is a struggle. And the camp is not safe, by any means.

Samera Edrees fled Marea — north of Aleppo — to Bab Al Salameh after her home was racked by gunfire. “The cluster bombs were dropped around my house,” Edrees said. “Machine guns targeted my house, making a hole in the wall. Life now is really hard. We were forced to come here. We don’t have any other choice.”

“The difference is that life there is unbearable, but here it’s a little better. Even if we only have a handful of rice to eat.”

More than 4.3 million Syrians have fled their homeland. But more than 7.6 million are internally displaced — fleeing the conflict but remaining inside Syria. In Bab Al Salameh alone, more than 15,000 Syrians live in ramshackle tents.

The refugees we spoke almost universally wanted to return home — and the war to be over.

“Thanks to Allah, we are still alive,” said Fahed Najar, who fled Marea to protect his five children from the bombings. But, he added, “there is no safety here. The planes do airstrikes every day. We want to go to Aleppo, but everything is expensive. Food is expensive, and there are no jobs there.”

Hassen Waseem of the IHH Humanitarian Relief Foundation concurred. “Even here, [the regime’s] air strikes and missiles have reached the area,” he said.

Some refugees have decided to try their luck in Turkey, such as shoemaker Mustafa Husain who was preparing to leave with his family for the town of Kilis across the border. “At first, I was living in Aleppo,” he said. “The situation was unbearable there. Our children were afraid. They couldn’t sleep at night.”

“We chose to live in a tent because it may be more safe here compared to Aleppo. But we are still afraid.”

Mohammed Ismael, a 16-year-old Syrian porter from Aleppo, blames the conflict — which destroyed his home — on Syrian Pres. Bashar Al Assad. He said life in the camp was good. “May Allah rid us of Bashar soon and may everyone who helps Bashar face the same destiny,” Ismael said. “What should we do? All the countries are watching us without doing anything.”

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