Needs Mount for Syrian Refugees from ISIS as More Families Pour into Turkey

February 12, 2015

Children help offload aid at a tent camp for refugees in Turkey.

A Turkish ministry at a tent camp less than 25 miles from the Apostle Paul´s hometown of Tarsus gives life-saving aid to those who fled Islamic State (ISIS) crimes against humanity in Syria and Iraq – a miniscule fraction of the total aid needed in the region, but it means everything to those it touches.

Most of the refugees in three tent camps in Adana, in southern Turkey, come from Syria, where nearly four years of civil war have been marked by ISIS militants´ demand for civilians to support their campaign to depose President Bashar Assad and establish a Sunni extremist caliphate or be tortured and killed.

Half of the estimated 210,000 people killed in Syria´s civil war have been civilians, according to the U.K-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. As the group has partisan origins some question its figures, but one of the three tent camps in Turkey appears to bear out the estimate.

“I have spoken with many families in the [73] tents, and in more than 50 percent of them, some family member – a husband, a wife, a brother – was killed” because they didn´t convert to Islam or otherwise didn´t meet the Islamist or political demands of ISIS or Al Qaeda-backed Al Nusra militants, said the director of the Turkish ministry. “They kidnap the girls and sell them at the bazaar. When they tell me about what they have been facing, you can see the fear and concern that it will happen again.”

Of the estimated 3.7 million Syrian refugees, at least 1.5 million have fled to Turkey, according to United Nations and Turkish government figures. Just as ISIS slaughtered up to 500 people from the ethnoreligious Yazidi community in Iraq in August 2014 and raped and sold many of their young girls in bazaars, the extremist rebels have done the same in Syria, the director said.

“So these pedophile-spirited people also kill whoever is not obeying their ideology,” he said. “Christian people were slaughtered in Iraq and Syria by those Islamic terrorists, too.”

Most of the refugees are from Aleppo, Homs, and Kobani, he said. ISIS has reportedly abandoned Kobani, on Syria´s border with Turkey, after Syrian Kurds, other rebel groups and coalition airstrikes retook it after months of occupation. Other cities in Syria still quake under battles and bombings.

“They told me that when ISIS attacked, they crucified people´s corpses in the city centers so everyone can see, even children,” he said. “Whoever obeys ISIS and lives like they want them to, and accepts the ISIS leader as a prophet, then they´re ok, but people are seeing that they´re cutting peoples´ heads off and crucifying them.”

Many families fled under cover of darkness, leaving all their possessions behind – home, land, stores, livestock, he said. They ran to save their lives; those who could not run were left to the mercy of the merciless.

“I have spoken to an old lady who told us she is taking care of three grandkids,” he said. “When I asked where are the parents, she told me both mother and father were killed by ISIS. I was heart-broken to hear such things.”

An epidemic of “Sark Boil” has especially afflicted children at a refugee camp in Turkey.

At a tent city in southeastern Turkey, where refugees mainly from the fighting in Kobani have arrived, an epidemic known as “Sark Boil” is leaving lesions on the faces of many, said the director of another Turkish ministry assisted by Christian Aid Mission.

“It has started on the kids, especially,” he said. “And it is spreading to other people quickly.”

The outbreak garnered some attention in the Turkish media, and ministry members thought the publicity might elicit some aid; instead, those infected found themselves more isolated.

“People were moving away to not get the illness from them,” he said. “Through a doctor friend of ours we helped some of them. But we need so many medicines for this.”

The ministry hopes to improve sanitary conditions in the camp, including renting a backhoe to move sewage water away. Makeshift toilets need to be upgraded.

The months-long fighting in Kobani left homes and infrastructure in ruins, and the director said new refugee families continue to arrive. The ministry has distributed wood and coal to help refugees keep warm, and it will need to continue doing so for at least another month. People are finding it difficult to find enough food, and the minstry needs vitamin pills to supplement its feeding program, the director said.

“While there are so many negative things happening, there were good and positive things too,” he said. “Children who see us, they have a smile on their faces. Families who see us, they bring their children for us to pray. And we can share the gospel with them easily.”

In Adana the ministry director said some families have quietly put their trust in Christ.

“They can´t talk to anyone about it, because they are afraid other people will hurt them,” he said.

The ministry distributes Bibles in Arabic and Kurdish. It has provided more than $10,000 worth of aid in its work in the 73-tent camp, and it would like to provide aid at another camp in Adana with 175 tents. Needs are for baby formula, diapers, clothes, shoes, heaters, blankets, medicines, and food items, such as corn oil, rice, pasta, rice, flour, tea, sugar, and dry beans, he said.

“We have 175 more families with urgent needs, and they have more newborn babies waiting our hand to help them,” he said. “Some babies´ lives could be in our hands. We just want to give a hand to more babies and families before one of them dies here in Adana.”