Earthquake Shatters Rebuilt Lives of Syrian Refugees in Turkey


First, Syria’s civil battle drove Hind Qayduha from her dwelling within the metropolis of Aleppo. Then, battle and joblessness compelled her household to flee two extra occasions. Two years in the past, she got here to southern Turkey, considering she had lastly discovered security and stability.

However when a strong earthquake struck every week in the past, it destroyed their house in the hard-hit Turkish city of Antakya and the household was displaced once more. They sought security close by, braced towards the aspect of the mountain round a medieval monastery and uncovered to a chilly rain; like many different survivors, they have been too shaken to remain beneath any roof.

Two days later, they have been residing on the ground of an unfinished carwash in Antakya.

“That is my room for me, my husband and three children,” Ms. Qayduha stated, laughing as she outlined along with her arms a small circle on the black-and-white patterned blanket, a meager cushion atop the gravel ground. She pointed to a different a part of the identical blanket: “And there’s my mom’s room.”

She stated different relations who had been residing close to her have been nonetheless buried within the rubble of their properties.

For Syrians, each refugees like Ms. Qayduha and people nonetheless residing again dwelling, final Monday’s earthquake was a catastrophe inside a catastrophe. Over the previous 12 years, their lives have been uprooted by civil battle and the mass displacement and loss of life it introduced. Syrians know all too nicely the lack of properties — partitions felled in mere seconds, folks trapped beneath the rubble for days. However the refugees who fled to Turkey thought that they had left these traumas behind.

Now, this previous week, some stated the wholesale destruction wrought by the earthquake was far worse than something that they had seen in additional than a decade of battle.

The civil battle displaced greater than half of Syria’s 21 million folks, and practically 4 million of them ended up as refugees in Turkey. Many lived within the swath of territory most closely affected by the earthquake, which killed greater than 29,000 folks in southern Turkey and greater than 3,500 throughout the border in northwestern Syria — tolls that hold steadily rising.

At first, the Syrian refugees have been largely welcomed in Turkey. The Syrians had comparatively first rate alternatives to make new lives and livelihoods.

However over time, they’ve confronted rising discrimination and pressure to return home, particularly lately because the Turkish economic system has taken a pointy downturn. The immense humanitarian crisis created by the earthquake reignited and heightened these longstanding tensions.

“And now we’re beneath risk from the Turks, who may kick us overseas,” stated Ms. Qayduha, 37.

Turkish residents of Antakya have leveled unsubstantiated accusations on the Syrians of looting or grabbing jewellery off corpses.

Tulin Kuseyri, a 62-year-old Turkish girl, stood by the Orontes River in Antakya on Thursday, watching searchers take away a physique from an house constructing. Close to her lay the physique of somebody she had recognized, wrapped in a pink blanket — one in all many relations and mates she stated she had misplaced within the earthquake, alongside along with her household’s cotton manufacturing unit and her dwelling.

“I don’t need Syrian immigrants in Antakya anymore,” she stated, barely capable of management herself. “As a substitute of paying for Syrian folks from our taxes, we wish them to handle Turks.”

But the connection between Turks and Syrian refugees is way extra complicated than worry, blame and resentment. In Antakya and different affected areas, some Syrian households stated Turkish ones had shared no matter shelter and meals that they had with them.

Different Syrian refugees stated that the government-run rescue and reduction response had not discriminated among the many needy.

“Thank God, Turkey isn’t distinguishing between us,” stated Jamal Ezzal Deen, a 30-year-old Syrian, as he held his 2-year-old daughter, Fatima. “Even when there may be some racism from the folks.”

On Thursday at a tent camp erected round Antakya’s soccer stadium, he had watched as a Turkish girl hassled a Turkish Military officer, insisting that the help ought to go solely to the Turks, not the Syrians. The officer informed her they wouldn’t discriminate.

Ms. Qayduha stated she nonetheless had household in Syria, together with two sisters in northwestern Idlib Province and an aunt in Aleppo — two of the areas hardest hit by the quake. However she hasn’t been capable of join with them. It’s a relentless reminder that Syrians on each side of the border are united in struggling.

She stated this was the second time she had misplaced her dwelling and all her possessions.

“I don’t personal something besides these children, thank God,” she stated in a raspy voice, hoarse from the chilly, as she prolonged her arms towards her 9-year-old daughter.

She and her household have been determined to go away the carwash, which has a big opening that enables in bitterly chilly air. They wish to discover higher shelter within the tent camps the Turkish authorities has been organising.

However they have been spooked by rumors that they wouldn’t be allowed in as a result of they’re Syrian, or that roaming teams of armed Turks have been in search of Syrians to assault.

And it was not solely the potential for rising anti-Syrian sentiment or the worry of assaults that has made some Syrians wish to go away Turkey: They dread another earthquake or other natural disaster.

At evening within the carwash, the mother and father sheltering there put their youngsters to sleep dressed and sporting sneakers, in case one other aftershock ought to drive them to run.

All of it turned out to be an excessive amount of for Ms. Qayduha and her prolonged household. They used a few of their final remaining cash and paid drivers to take them farther west, outdoors the earthquake zone.

“Again after we have been residing within the battle, we’d flee to a different space and we might really feel safer,” stated Ms. Qayduha’s mom, Dalal Masri, 55. “However right here, we don’t really feel like there’s wherever protected to go.”

Outdoors a collapsed house constructing in Antakya, a girl in her 50s who stated she had come from northwestern Syria to Turkey simply days earlier than the earthquake stored a hopeful vigil for days. She didn’t wish to give her title out of concern for her security.

The constructing was the place her daughter, 9 months pregnant, had been residing along with her household, and the mom had come to Turkey for the delivery.

“Can a mom go away her daughter’s aspect?” she stated on Friday, wiping away tears. She squeezed her eyes shut, seemingly keen them to cease. “Everybody right here is ready for somebody beneath.”

Wrapped in a navy scarf, she stored a watch on a handful of rescuers who have been strolling alongside the upturned edges of the constructing’s balconies, often calling into the destroyed constructing’s depths and listening intently for any response, nonetheless faint.

When requested if any voices had been heard to date, she started to cry once more.

“It’s been 100 hours.”

Close by, a playground was strung up with sheets and blankets, became a relaxation space for rescue employees. A skinny foam mattress stretched throughout the yellow slide, a makeshift mattress.

On Saturday, the mom lastly acquired the grim information. Rescuers had discovered her daughter’s physique and that of her 3-year-old son in the course of the evening. They buried them subsequent to one another.

The mom stated she had come to Turkey anticipating to welcome one other grandchild. As a substitute, she’s going to return to Syria, having buried the daughter who was her greatest buddy.

Vivian Yee contributed reporting.

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