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Between tents and poverty: a breath of hope in Bardarash camp.

EN - Tuesday, 26 November 2019

Northern Iraqi Kurdistan. Rows of white tents pile up like hives on vacant land. A few crates of fruit placed on the side of the road are appreciated by the Syrian families. The camp stirs and wakes up for another day in exile.

What did they take with them? Mid-season clothes, some blankets, some cash. Little girls with braided hair rush past me, while on my right a small old motorcycle blocks my way. I am there, once again, in the Bardarash camp.

One month later, the tension is still palpable; even the smiles that are addressed to us cannot hide the poverty of the camp. After the bombs, the misery.

At the beginning of October, Turkish forces crossed the Syrian border. The "Source of Peace" offensive is launched in northeastern Syria. The objective: to flush out the Kurds whose exacerbated nationalism exasperates the neighbouring countries.  But the bombs make no distinction between the civilians and the military. Threatened with death, tens of thousands of Syrians escape to remote villages or find refuge in Iraq in the Bardarash camp.

sos chretiens orient syrie aide urgence jezireh deplace bombardement turc

In Syria and Iraq, it is a battleground. SOS Chrétiens d'Orient, true to its reputation, is urgently launching humanitarian operations for uprooted and exiled families, most of whom have young children.

While in Syria, teams are mobilizing massively in the cities of Hassakeh, Qamishli and Raqqa, volunteers in Iraq, in collaboration with the Barzani Charity Foundation (BCF), are conducting a first operation in Bardarash. They distribute 150 food parcels there. Very few in view of the number of families, but due to a lack of financial resources, Antoine Brochon, head of mission in Iraq, has made some choices.

On the 22nd of November, once again in a hurry, a small team led by Julien Dittmar, the deputy head of the mission, set foot once again on "this piece of Syrian soil" in Iraqi Kurdistan. Thanks to the donations collected following the first operation, they donated thirty wheelbarrows. The camp, which hosts more than 3000 families, extends as far as the eye can see.

The distances to be walked, several tens of kilos on your back, are therefore often very difficult.

sos chretiens orient irak donation urgence camp bardarash volontaires

These wheelbarrows will allow many to consider more serenely the transport of essential foodstuffs and supplies between storage areas and tents.

"The camp is still as unhealthy as ever, the people are restless and the forces at the entrance are very authoritarian. Leaning against the door of our car, I observe this scene of despair that my eyes imprint on my memory.

Entire families, ten of them piled up in a car with what little they had left, extinguished faces, children crying, exhausted parents.

At the entrance to the camp, as I am taking pictures with my camera, a three-year-old girl in her pajamas approaches me. With her hair unbrushed and bare feet, with a huge smile and naively joyful eyes, she wants me to take a picture of her. Succumbing to this deep look, I take a picture of her. A fleeting moment that flies away as fast as this little girl, who left to join her mother, throwing me a kiss.

The logistics manager, a member of the BCF, signals us to pass through the portal. Loaded with our wheelbarrows, we cross the aisles separating the tents.

sos chretiens orient irak familles syriennes camp bardarash

Around us, the kids are playing on the ground and the women are hanging out their laundry. In front of the storage areas, children with cans in their hands line up to get water, and look at me with their big smiles hoping that I will take pictures of them too. The place is very noisy: between truck passages, loading and unloading of provisions and complaints from new arrivals, who are forced to wait for administrative procedures.

We unload the wheelbarrows in a storage area. Three men from the camp, surprised to see me filming, approach to help us, too happy to benefit from this "movie star" moment.  Once the wheelbarrows are delivered and stowed, one of the refugees looks at me with a big smile and asks me to film him getting out from the truck; and I agree. He hugs me and thanks me.

I feel very uncomfortable and at the same time grateful for all the smiles I get for taking simple pictures.

sos chretiens orient camp bardarash irak enfants syriens

Once the mission is accomplished, we do a tour in the camp to meet families. As we move forward, musical sounds come to us. A large group of masked children are rehearsing a choreography under the watchful eye of the adults. We watch the show with their parents, happy to see them busy, as in their old life.

A little further away, small shops opened: "hairdressers and barbers" in tents, fruit and vegetable stands, clothing stands and even a touktouk acting as a taxi.

We then discover another aspect of the camp, similar to a small town, with new facilities and a little more life. I am in admiration of such a scene:

Refugees who have just lost everything except their lives, who keep hope and try to find a semblance of normalcy.

This second visit touched me much more than the first one. Despite the distress, they still have a strong desire to fight for survival. »

This second emergency operation was financed to the tune of $800. A wheelbarrow costs $19. Help us to continue our emergency actions in the Bardarash camp. Make a donation.

Laurie, Communication Officer in Iraq.