Kobane refugees: "We left in the clothes we are wearing"

By: 
Anonymous
Young children newly arrived in Turkey as refugees from northern Syria

"It is very frightening. They took my cousin for five days and they killed a girl who had an injured finger as they thought she had been fighting against them," Alan Abraka* tells me. Alan is a lawyer from a village 50km from Kobane, Syria who is helping CARE to carry out assessments in Turkey.

My father is 87 years old, he walked 20km at night as it was his only option to save himself. It is uncivil there.

Over 140,000 Syrians have fled across the border into Turkey in the past week. They are desperate and terrified. Many left their homes with just the clothes they were wearing; some made the journey without any shoes.

Those who haven't made it into Turkey yet are having to sleep in areas along the border that have landmines. They are old landmines, but yesterday we saw a young boy step on one and get badly injured.

Families have nowhere to go

The majority of people have nowhere to go; some are trying to find shelter in warehouses or building sites. We visit one family, with four children including a small boy of about three or four who is blind. They are sitting on a threadbare rug in a concrete room, three metres by two metres with no electricity, and no door, except for a ragged curtain.

The children have a skin infection on their scalps, their heads look raw and flaky in their matted hair. The young baby, Kamal*, though small for his very young age, looks content and smiling in his mother's arms as she tells their story:

New-born baby Kamal © CARE / Kathryn Richards

New-born baby Kamal

"We all live here in this room. The children have skin diseases, but we cannot get them treatment. We have no food to eat; we buy the food that has gone bad from the market as it is the cheapest we can get.

We take the children in the street to beg for money.

"We arrived from Damascus three months ago and travelled in a vehicle with animals to get here. Most of our men have stayed in Syria but it is at least safer here.

"My baby was just three days old when we fled to Turkey, we needed to go somewhere safe. We let an elderly lady stay with us, she has nowhere to go so every day she goes to a different home."

Families are crammed side by side

They are frightened about diseases – if one person gets sick, it could spread quickly.

Mariam Üstün is 25-years-old. She sits on the floor along with eight other adults, including two elderly men and numerous children. One of the men, Ismail Yousef Hessi, holds up the plastic bag containing just a few more days of his medicine. He implores us to help as his eyes well up and then looks away in despair. There are 25 more family members coming to share their cramped space in the coming days.

70-year-old Ismail Yousef Hessi © CARE / Kathryn Richards

70-year-old Ismail Yousef Hessi

Mariam is also ill, her skin is acutely jaundiced and she looks exhausted.

"There is bombing in Kobane, we were scared and had to leave, we had no time so we just left in the clothes we are wearing. My uncle is sick, so we were let through, but we have family sleeping on the border. When there is no bombing people go back to their houses in the day to get food.

"We only have medicine for a few days. I am sick with hepatitis but we left without our papers so we cannot get treatment.

Kobane used to be peaceful, other people affected by the war from all over Syria came to Kobane to be safe but now we have all had to flee.

"We have no idea what will happen next, we are just hoping it will get better as we have no income here. We really just hope for peace because the situation is very bad for us here."

*Names have been changed to protect identity