No child should grow up with such a name

Barbara Jackson
Syrian refugees are living in harsh conditions as winter approaches

How does one react when being told that the name of a new born child of refugee parents means "one who has lost everything and whose people are eternally persecuted"? What do you say when you meet an infant whose name means "homeless"?

As I visited the temporary homes of 503 Kurdish people who fled the town of Kobane in Syria two months ago to Turkey, I was at loss with my emotions.

The stories that refugees told me made the harsh conditions that I was seeing even more real.

The homes that are being graciously offered by a Turkish community are structures that served as stables, made of mud bricks with earthen floors. Each family had received one blanket and that blanket served as padding for sleeping for the ten or more people in one room.

My CARE colleagues and I visited this "community" of Kobane refugees one cold, grey afternoon and it was clear that, as winter approaches, it will become desperately cold not only at night but during the day.

I met children who do not have shoes or warm clothing. I saw families with only one blanket to keep them warm at night. The one bucket that has been heated over an open fire stoked with hay is the only source of warm water for bathing. A water tap in the middle of five or six households is the only source of water for the entire refugee community.

The Kobane refugees are living a life of great uncertainty.

They fear for their lives if they return, yet feel a sense of despair when considering the option of staying in their current living conditions.

When I asked them if they would like to go to a refugee camp, the answer was an emphatic 'no' as they do not want to be legitimised as refugees. Every day the adults walk the ten kilometres to the border with Syria to see for themselves what is happening on the other side, with hopes that the fighting will have ceased and that their homes will become their homes again. Yet they tell me that they see only a slim chance for that to happen if the world does not listen and help.

With names that mean 'homeless', I too fear very much that their children will grow up without a place to call their own unless the international community indeed does act and deepen its support for the refugees at all levels.

No child should grow up with such a name. No child should live with an identity of forever being persecuted. We must change their future.

This article first appeared in the Huffington Post 21/11/2014

Barbara Jackson's picture

Barbara Jackson is Humanitarian Director for CARE International – Read her blog posts