‘Every time I can buy some basic necessities, I have to leave them behind and move again’

As regime forces continue to advance north and east after taking the last rebel stronghold in northern Latakia over the weekend, civilians in the dozens of camps for internally displaced Syrians along the Turkish border “are afraid of the regime forces’ revenge,” says Umm Ahmad, a widow who is one of the tens of thousands of Syrians in these camps.

“We are all terrorists in the eyes of the regime,” the mother of three tells Syria Direct’s Noura Hourani.

Q: As regime forces close in on the camps, what are you afraid of?

People here in the camps are afraid of the regime forces’ revenge more so than they are afraid of the bombing. We don’t know what the regime’s response will be. We are all terrorists in the eyes of the regime. Perhaps our destiny will be imprisonment or death under the pretext that we are rebels. Our future is unknown.

Q: How did you come to the camp? What is life like there?

We fled from the Idlib countryside to the Turkish border in the Oubeen region because of the barbaric barrel bombs that the regime was tossing on our heads. Two years passed [in Latakia] and we remained relatively safe. That was until the vicious Russian campaign began that didn’t spare anyone or anything. They bombed schools, medical facilities and field hospitals. They even bombed the camps on the [Syrian-Turkish] border.

After the campaign against Salma, the bombing intensified to the point that I was afraid for my children. Shrapnel from a rocket fell near my young son when he was out buying bread. After that, I became afraid to send them out anywhere.

But then they bombed our tents, so I decided to return to the Idlib countryside. [Ed.: Umm Ahmad’s husband was a civilian who was killed in a regime airstrike of north Latakia.]

However the situation in Idlib was also horrific because of bombardment, so I chose to go back to Jabel Turkman on the Turkish border to go to Turkey.

After the fall of Salma, the bombing of Jabel Turkman intensified greatly. It was then up to me to find a way to leave. I don’t have the proper documents and the Turkish side won’t permit anyone to enter without them.

The real suffering is that we are freezing and can’t do anything about it. We have fled from one place to another, carrying nothing except our clothes, in this freezing cold, mud and over rugged terrain. Every time I can buy some basic necessities, I have to leave them behind and move again. The situation is horrific. We have started hoping for death.

Here, you see people lying on the ground in the cold. The cold weakens us. Now our fear has increased even more after the fall of Rabia. We can’t sleep because of the sound of bombing.

I want to find a way to get to Turkey as soon as possible, but the only way is via smuggling.

Noura Hourani

Noura Hourani studied English Literature at Tishreen University and previously worked as a private English tutor. She left Syria at the beginning of the conflict.

Samuel Kieke

Samuel Kieke was a 2014-2015 CASA I fellow in Amman, Jordan. He received his BA from the University of Texas at Austin in Arabic Language and Literature, Middle Eastern Studies, and International Relations and Global Studies.