MSD's Ehmed: Refugees in our region have urgent needs

Syrian Democratic Council Co-chair Ilham Ehmed stated that the migrants coming to their region have serious sanitary needs and demanded the silence towards the refugee camps is ended.

Syrian Democratic Council (MSD) Co-chair Ilham Ehmed spoke on the migrants who arrived in their region from Raqqa, Bab, Tal Afar, Mesken and other places during the operation to liberate Raqqa and Tabqa.

Ehmed stated that the migrants have serious issues regarding food, shelter and especially health services and added that there is a serious silence towards the refugee camps between Rubar and Hawl-Shaddadi. Ehmed said this is a deliberate policy and demanded the international powers break their silence, while calling on the Doctors Without Borders and other humanitarian health organizations to act.


Ehmed stated that in the last 15 days, some 100 thousand migrants arrived in the region from Raqqa, al-Bab, Tabqa, Mesken, to Tel Afar and Kirkuk. She said some of the migrants crossed over to al-Bab and Azaz on their own demand and the rest of the refugees were gathered in two camps. She added that she visited both camps with administrators from the Raqqa Civilian Council and said the following:

“We gathered the recent incoming refugees in two camps. There are 50 thousand people in one camp. This camp is in the Karama district. Meanwhile in the other camp, the numbers go up and down. It fluctuates between 10 and 20 thousand. As we said before, there are many aid organizations but there isn’t any serious aid happening. Many organizations are backed by Europe and they don’t provide aid. This shows that there is a general plan towards our region. This decision forces one to think whether they want the Syrians to be killed in one way or the other. One can’t help but think: Is there an approach that if they don’t die in the war, they should die of hunger? If not from hunger, then the cold or the heat. This is the situation. This is what one gathers.”


Ehmed stated that they attempted to solve the migrants’ issues of food, shelter and health with the US and the Coalition countries and said: “We wanted to handle the situation with the American government. We as both the MSD and the Raqqa Civilian Council sent letters. We asked the US and the Coalition forces for support in this matter, we asked for their help to solve it together. But they haven’t spent any serious efforts yet. This truly is unacceptable, so they need to review the situation as well. They should at least provide the necessities for the camps that have been set up.”


Regarding the issues with the refugees, Ehmed said that serious preparations should be made before the Raqqa city center phase of the Wrath of Euphrates operation starts.

MSD Co-chair pointed out the number of arriving refugees even before the operation in the city center started, and added:

“Preparations should be made to set up the Raqqa camp. The Raqqa city operation hasn’t started yet, but there are so many refugees already. When it starts, it will be much different. This is a city as big as Mosul, thus preparations should be made before the last phase of the operation to liberate Raqqa starts. There have been 38 deaths so far among the refugees from Raqqa due to lack of resources, the cold and sickness. Some of these were children. This is truly heavy and tragic. European countries and the Coalition forces should take responsibility for this.”


Ehmed said: “European countries give billions of euros to countries that don’t need it at all. With Turkey saying ‘There are this many refugees, there is a need’, the world goes into alarm for Turkey. This means that the issue here is just an issue of interest. ‘We will pay, just so long as the refugees don’t come to us’, is the approach. Everybody knows that there are not that many refugees, not in Turkey, not anywhere else. In fact, people becoming refugees now don’t go over to those sides, they stay in our region.”

Ehmed stated that the number she gave is just the number of refugees in the camps and there are hundreds of thousands more refugees who settled with their friends and family in villages, towns and cities. She pointed out that this creates a heavy burden for them and added: “These people have all left their homes, without any belongings. They come to our home, with nothing. This of course creates a burden. So this is an urgent matter that needs to be addressed and support should be provided. The international aid organizations in this region should spring into action.”


MSD Co-chair stated that the most important problem the refugees are facing is with health services and called for urgent action on the matter.

Remarking that the refugees’ health is critical, Ehmed continued: “There are no doctors or medicine. The Doctors Without Borders are always working here, but they haven’t given much support up to now either. For instance, the Karama Camp is not suitable for people to stay at. There are many scorpions there in the summer, for one. There should be precautions against that. Medicine should be brought in, there definitely should be clinics inside the camp. These are truly urgent. The camp’s needs should be provided from the ground up. When the region is liberated, those who have homes may return, but the people whose houses have been demolished will have to stay. There should be precautions for that. If there isn’t, the remaining people will once again turn towards Europe and other countries.”


Ehmed stated that it is significant that the refugee camps have been targeted recently from Efrîn, Hawl and Shaddadi. She said the silence of the international powers in the face of these attacks makes one think, and continued:

“There was an attack on refugees in Efrîn, but unfortunately nobody reacted against it, there wasn’t even a statement made against it. Again, there was an attack in Hawl on people trying to come to the migrant camp from Iraq. Earlier we had attempted to move them to safe Iraqi territory, but neither the regional government nor the Iraqi government accepted this. There wasn’t a serious approach to the issue. So we set up the camp in an area close to the border according to our means. We tried to help people with the resources we have. But this attack came from outside, and the attackers crossed over along with refugees. They murdered civilians. It was a very sudden attack that happened simultaneously with our forces resisting Turkey’s attacks on the Turkish border. So, they pulled our attention to the Turkish border and hit us from the back. There was another attack from the Shaddadi side as well. In this region, the gangs want to both create their cells and to attack. We don’t consider these attacks removed from the Turkish state. Iran also might be involved in this attack, but we don’t know this for sure. Of course this attack is significant. The look and behavior of these attackers didn’t resemble ISIS. We launched an inquiry and we will uncover the truth.”

Syrian Democratic Council Co-chair Ilham Ehmed said there was a constant desire and insistence to target Shaddadi. She said this insistence is due to the region being rich and having a strategic location connecting Deir ez-Zor and Heseke and added: “We are looking into the reasons why there are attacks on Shaddadi and why they persist. Efforts are in place to uncover which powers are involved in this game. We don’t know yet which force is behind this attack. There hasn’t been such insistence in any other region until now. They are setting up sleeper cells, creating provocation and attacking. There are attacks from the Iraqi side. Of course these are significant and need to be addressed, so we are doing just that.”