“The only goal of Afrin people is to return home”
Shexo Ibrahim from the Berxwedan Camp Assembly founded first in Shehba said: “Refugees from Afrin who live in Shehba and Sherawa organize their lives to return to Afrin, and continue their resistance on this basis.”
Hundreds of thousands of people from Afrin were forced to leave their lands and migrate to Shehba and Sherawa due to the Turkish state’s attacks on March 16, 2018. But the Shehba region had just experienced a devastating war due to the ISIS and Al Nusra occupations in 2016. Most of the districts and villages had been damaged, many homes had been destroyed. There are still landmines placed by ISIS in some homes. Hundreds of thousands of people from Afrin had to first fit in these districts and villages in ruins. The Northern Syrian people and the Autonomous Administration came together to found tent camps so the people from Afrin could have shelter. Berxwedan, Serdem and Efrin camps were set up in Shehba and Veger camp in Sherewan. Thousands have been living in the very tents for a year and a half now.
Shexo Ibrahim from the Berxwedan Camp Assembly administration spoke to ANF about how the camp is organized, daily life in the camp and the needs people have.
“COMMUNES FULFILL NEEDS”
Shexo Ibrahim said the people built the camp on one hand and established their own system on the other:
“When Afrin was invaded in an international plot and some negotiations, the whole world remained silent. The people of Afrin resisted for 58 glorious days against this invasion. We know very well that we did not fight against just the Turkish state in Afrin. We fought against all forces that were involved in this plot. But when we had no other option, we were forced to migrate to Shehba. It was a small area, and there were not many resources. Bu the people didn’t give up. There were five families in every house. So we set up this camp, because the people needed it. The Berxwedan Camp was set up in a rush, on March 23. The people helped put up the actual tents. In time the camp’s population grew, so as the construction continued people started to organize a system to see to the needs in the camp. Because there was truly nothing at the camp. The people had a really tough time. There were no bathrooms even. So first, a commune was set up to see to the most urgent needs at least. It was very difficult for the first two months. Then the communes started to work. There are 14 communes in the camp. They elected co-chairs and formed commissions. The communes see to the needs of bathing, toilets, potable water and bread. For the first three months, no NGO ever set foot in the camp. It was the autonomous administration that saw to the needs of the people.”
“PEOPLE OF AFRIN PREPARE TO RETURN”
Ibrahim said the people of Afrin are aware of the reality of the enemy they face, and have organized their lives accordingly:
“Then the assembly was set up with 23 members. There are 8 bodies in this assembly. Like I said, it was very difficult at first. The people had suffered, they had had losses, and the people of Afrin had faced this kind of a situation for the first time ever. But they slowly set up their own system. They weaved the life they had built in Afrin in seven years, with communes and assemblies, again in Shehba. Now there are 720 families and a total of 2900 persons in the Berxwedan Camp. there is a municipality committee, and committees for defense, women’s issues, social issues and peace keeping. The communes and assemblies gather every month in meetings. There are training courses available for the people, with the mail goal to reorganize their lives and prepare to return to Afrin. The municipality provides cleaning and water, but the people ensure their own security. 30 people keep watch daily. The peace committee works to resolve disputes. There is a school in the camp, 700 children receive education in Kurdish, Arabic, English and French. We need this system in the camp, because if we can’t organize life like this, the enemy will not leave us alone. This is necessary to defend ourselves. We need daily things, but we also need meetings and trainings. The people are aware of this. At first it was too much for them. They couldn’t accept it. There was even a group of people who wanted to leave. But now they understand better. They are aware that they face an enemy. And that the enemy does everything deliberately and that they must resist.
“THE REGIME CUT OFF THE ROADS, SICK PEOPLE CAN’T BE TREATED”
Ibrahim added that the biggest issue is health, and that they don’t have equipment or expert doctors for treatment:
“Heyva Sor A Kurdistane has a place in the camp, but serious conditions can’t be treated there. There’s also nobody to treat eyes, bones, nerves and psychological issues. And unfortunately issues with these are very widespread. We can’t take severely ill persons outside because the Syrian regime cutting off roads. There is a large group of elderly people in the camp, which is too hot in the summer and too cold in the winter. Currently it is summer, and we don’t have air conditioning. The autonomous administration helps us and the people support us but it’s not enough. To resolve some of the unemployment, we set up an 80 shop place in the camp. There are no jobs in Shehba in general. Some families don’t have people who could work. These families need help. There isn’t much support coming from the outside. Hilal Ehmer Suri only helps with water. Other than that, everything we provide on our own.”
Ibrahim called on NGOs to send aid for air conditioners and basic needs.