Terrorized Refugees Flee ISIS Offensive in Kobani, Syria
October 16, 2014
Refugees often arrive with little but painful memories of lost relatives, income and possessions.
In a barren area of Turkey’s southern border with Syria, a Turkish ministry director is striving to meet the needs of a new stream of refugees from Syria: people fleeing Islamic State (ISIS) terrorists’ attempt to seize the border town of Kobani.
“The events on the Syrian side are much worse than we hear from our media,” said the director, whose organization has brought relief to Syrian refugees in other areas in Turkey since civil war broke out three years ago. “In the border villages ISIS is cutting with swords whoever resists. Young girls can’t walk around because they kidnap them. In one of the families that was given a tent, ISIS raped their daughter and let her go. The girl hanged herself instead of coming home.”
ISIS fighters have reportedly taken more than 300 Syrian Kurdish villages near Kobani, also known by its Arabic name, Ayn Arab. Before the attempted takeover of Kobani in ISIS’s attempt to establish a Sunni Islamic caliphate in a region across Iraq and Syria, Kobani itself had been one of the centers of refuge for the estimated 6.5 million Syrians internally displaced by war.
Of the roughly 3 million Syrians who have fled to other countries, it is estimated that more than 1.6 million have fled to Turkey. The number of new refugees from Kobani has yet to be calculated, but tent cities have begun springing up on the Turkish side of the border.
“The people’s eyes are full of pain,” the director said. “They are far away from their country, most of their relatives are killed, and their children are going to a place where they don’t know anyone. Maybe many were high-level, honored people, who are now living like beggars.”
One refugee in his 50s told the director how the swift arrival of the ISIS fighters forced him to make an agonizing choice.
“We had so many cows and sheep, and we left all of them and ran away,” he told the director. “My oldest son was taking care of our animals. He went to check on our shepherd, and I had two choices – wait for my son, or take all the rest of my family and run away. I was crying as I took the rest of my family and came here.”
The ministry director provided a tent for the family.
“He tried to kiss my hand; this is an expression of respect in Muslim culture,” he said. “We hugged him and tried to give him solace.”
Turkish border security tightly controls the flow of refugees. Most are Kurdish, and Turkey is threatened by a rebel Kurdish movement within its own borders. The director himself would not have been allowed into the area, even accompanied by a government security agent, had he not been able to show officials the tents and other aid he was bringing.
“They are preparing to create a new ‘tent city,’ and they need so many tents,” he said. “They need so much winter stuff; in one month there will be a hard winter. The children are weak and they need so many vitamins.”
With assistance from Christian Aid Mission, the director can make local purchases of tents and other urgently needed items – diapers, blankets, beds, electric heaters and feminine hygiene items.
“Through your support, we bought tents for four families because they didn’t have any tents and were sleeping outside in the open air. Right now there are 97 more families with needs,” he said.
The ministry seeks assistance to purchase diapers for 78 babies, 394 blankets (one blanket is $23 for a total cost of $6,900), 300 beds ($45 each for total of $13,500) and 97 electric heaters, which at $23 each would cost $2,231, he said. The 97 tents needed cost $410 each for a total of $39,770, and also needed are 1,000 women’s sanitary pads - $2,000.
“Right now, there is no church or ministry organization in there,” he said. “Actually, it is hard to be there, because they don’t let anyone enter the camp. But God helped me.”