IDLIB, Syria – Among the millions of Syrians who fled the government bombing their cities, destroying their homes and killing their loved ones, there were 150 families squatting in a football stadium in Idlib. Northwest, hiding in a rickety tent, under the amphitheater or in a rocky courtyard.
Rare and terrifying jobs catch them whenever the jet buzzes overhead: new air strikes may come at any time. But the fear of the government’s condemnation prevented them from coming home. More than 1,300 similar camps, housed in Syria’s final fortification under the control of rebels, feed on farmland, stretching along numerous irrigation and filling canals alongside apartment buildings where refugee families squat in damaged units; and No window
“People will be in these places with all the disasters before they go under the Bashar al-Assad regime,” said Okba al-Rahoum, the camp manager at the football stadium.
On visiting the rare Idlib province, there are numerous examples of shocked and impoverished people trapped in a dark and often violent limbo. Trapped between a wall to prevent them from fleeing across the border near Turkey and a hostile government that can strike at any time, they fight to maintain their basic needs in a territory controlled by terrorist groups, which Previously linked to al Qaeda
In the decade of the beginning of the Syrian war, President Bashar al-Assad’s forces crushed the communities that were uprising against him, and millions of people fleeing uncertain new lives in neighboring Europe and the country. In Syria, outside the territory of Mr al-Assad captured, as well as in the northwest of the rebels.
The Syrian leader has made it clear that these people did not fit his idea of victory and that few would return as long as he remained in power, making the fate of the IDPs one piece. The most dangerous of the unfinished business of the war.
“The question is what is the future of these people,” said Mark Cutts, the UN Deputy Regional Humanitarian Coordinator for Syria.
Throughout the war, the rebel Northwest became the destination of last resort for the Syrians with nowhere else to go. The government fired them here after taking over their city. They drove a truck with blankets, mattresses, and some children arrived on foot with few possessions other than the clothes they were wearing.
Last year, displeasure by the Syrian government with support from Russia and Iran drew nearly a million more people to the area.
About 2.7 million of the 4.2 million people in the northwest, one of the last two strips of the territory where the rebel movement once controlled much of Syria, fled other parts of the country. It has transformed pastoral farming villages into a dense cluster of temporary settlements with strained infrastructures and displaced families crowded in all areas that exist.
After fighting his hometown, former police officer Akram Saeed fled to Syria’s Qah village near the Turkish border in 2014 and settled on a plot overlooking an olive groves in the valley below. Since then, he has watched the waves of his compatriots pouring into the valley where the olive trees lead to the crowded tent camps.
“Last year, all of Syria ended here,” said Mr Saeed. “Only God knows what will happen in the future.”
Humanitarian organizations working to quell hunger and infectious disease, including COVID-19, have struggled to get adequate aid in the area. And such efforts could be harder if Russia, Mr Al-Assad’s closest international ally, blocked a United Nations resolution for renewal this summer to keep the northwest border open to security. International aid
Complicating international skepticism about rescuing Idlib is the dominant role of the terrorist rebel Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, or HTS.
The group evolved from the Nusra Front, a jihadist organization that pledged al-Qaeda al-Qaeda early in the war and was characterized by mass use of suicide bombers against governments and civilian targets.
Turkey, the United States and the United Nations consider the HTS a terrorist organization, although its leaders have publicly distanced themselves from Al Qaeda in 2016 and have since been. Those efforts were clear for Idlib, which had no flags, badges and graffiti announcing the group’s presence, although residents often called it very carefully. “The group that controls the area”
Unlike the Islamic State, militant groups that fight both rebels and the government to control the area that spreads along the Syrian-Iraqi border, the HTS did not immediately push for the creation of an Islamic State, nor did it provide a powerful police force. The morality of the strict enforcement of social codes.
During a tour of the front-line position of a military spokesperson traveling by Nordur de Courre Abu, Khalid Al Shami leads reporters down the underground stairs hidden in the bunker to the long underground tunnels that lead. To a network of trenches and firing positions loaded by fighters
“The regime is like that, this way Russia and Iranian troops are there,” he said, pointing to the green fields to the point where the group’s enemies dug up.
When asked how the group differs from previous Qaeda franchises, he threw it up as part of a broader rebellion trying to overthrow Mr al-Assad.
In managing the area, HTS helped establish the Syrian Salvation government, which employs more than 5,000 people and 10 ministries, including justice, education and agriculture, Chief Executive Ali Keda said in an interview.
It is not internationally recognized and has struggled to meet the overwhelming demands of the area.
Critics reject the administration as a civilian building that allows forbidden groups to interact with foreign organizations. They accuse it and the HTS of detaining critics and shutting down activities seen as contradicting strict Islamic views.
Last month, Rania Kisar, director of SHINE, a Syrian-American educational organization, urged a group of women organizing an event in Idlib to reject a polygamous marriage, which is permitted under Islamic law.
The next day, the gunman closed SHINE’s office and threatened to jail her manager, Kisar said.
Government spokesman Melhem al-Ahmad confirmed. Has closed the office. “Until further notice” after seeing Ms. Kisar’s words “insulting the feelings and morals of the people”
An HTS spokesperson said aid organizations and the media are free to work within a “revolutionary framework” that respects norms and does not go beyond what is permitted.
Progress by government forces last year increased the pressure on Idlib’s tense service.
At the maternity hospital in Idlib, Dr. Ikram Haboush recalled delivering three or four babies a day before the war. Now, as so many doctors fled and had very few facilities, she typically took care of 15 times a day.
The hospital is overcrowded and lack of means of handling difficult cases
“Sometimes we have babies born prematurely. But we had no place to give and by the time we could move them to Turkey, the boy was dead, ”she said.
Since last year, a ceasefire between Russia and Turkey has immediately put an end to hostilities in Idlib, but on a day of last month three attacks have been made. A bullet entered the refugee camp Air strikes put fuel depots on Turkish border. And three artillery shells struck a village hospital in Al Atarib, killing seven people, including an orphaned boy who went to get vaccinated, according to the Syrian American Medical Association, which supports the facility.
While IDPs in the area struggle to survive, others try to offer simple happiness.
In Idlib, a Disneyland restaurant draws visitors to salad and roast beef and forget about adversity with video games, bumper cars, air hockey and stuffed animal claw machines.
The basement vault doubled as a refuge when the government was nearby, and the balcony was covered with plastic panels instead of glass, so it wouldn’t shatter if something exploded nearby.
Ahmed Abu Kheir, his manager, was unemployed in a closed tourist restaurant when the war began, so he opened a small facility later destroyed by a government shooting.
He opened another restaurant. But left it when the government seized the area last year and he fled to Idlib.
Like Idlib’s displaced people, he wishes to bring his family home. But it’s nice to work in a place that spreads a little happiness in the meantime.
“We are convinced that normal life has to go on,” he said. “We want to live.”