The smile of Ekrem Cetin

17 images Created 20 Oct 2021

Syrian civil war

Kilis, September 2013. By now, the Syrian revolution has turned into a civil war. More than 2.000.000 Syrians have left their country. 492.000 fled to turkey. Despite two major UNHCR-led refugee camps in Kilis province, the vast majority of Syrian refugees is on its own living in makeshift camps and housings like the Ekrem Cetin Mosque. Of the estimated 45.000 refugees in Kilis, only one third finds shelter in the official camps, the other 31.000 people are on their own.

One refugee states the number of those living here to be 800 to 900 people. In another inofficial camp about one kilometer down south, there are said to be 2000. Whether those number are correct or rather an expression of desperation, I cannot judge. It is a fact, however, that here, a very large number of people have to share a very limited amount of space. Viewed from the outside, the courtyard seems to be bursting with tents.

Tents, fashioned from anything that might offer protection: tarps, cardboard, plastic bags. The entire area is covered by a network of ropes. Many of the tents are not waterproof and do not sufficiently shield from the elements. Those living here do not know how long they may have to stay. There is no certainty about if or when they might be transfered to a larger camp. Everyone fears having to spend the looming winter here.

The constant state of limbo is draining. Many almost consider heading back to Syria. But the situation there has not improved either, in fact, the developments of the last weeks have only made it even more dangerous. Over the course of the most recent battles over the border town of Azaz in Northern Syria, the border has been closed. Help hardly reaches those who need it.

Most of the camp’s inhabitants are from the regions of Idlib and Aleppo and reached Turkey about two months ago. In the beginning, they were told that they would be moved to one of the big refugee camps.

One and a half months later however, they have now come to settle in the mosque’s courtyard. This may be a minor improvement, but remains a small comfort amidst the desolation of their situation. According to them, apart from the few blue plastic tarps, none of the promised aid has reached them.

Kitchen facilities are not available, all cooking has to be carried out over open fire outside the mosque.

It is the women and children that are truly admirable. Despite of everything, they manage to retain their humanity; they laugh and joke, are interested and hospitable. They don’t seem to be focused on their loss. Rather than trying to convince me of their – without a doubt terrible – fate, they just seem happy about seeing an unfamiliar face, something new.

I get invited for tea, asked to sit with them. Touched and humbled, I have no choice but to take them up on their offer and to look into their friendly faces for a little longer.
View: 100 | All