The Syrian side of Bab al-Hawa and a niece’s body: A pilgrim’s view of the world from the perspective of a humanitarian crisis in Syria
They arrived in the back of a van, wrapped in body bags, blue tarps or colorful family blankets. Their names were scrawled on pieces of paper for bereaved family members waiting in the bitter cold to receive them on the Syrian side of the border with Turkey.
“Those who didn’t die in Syria, died in Turkey,” said Ahmad al-Yousef, 37, as he waited Tuesday night on the Syrian side of Bab al-Hawa with his aunt to receive the body of a cousin’s 13-year-old daughter.
The body of the girl, Yara Ibnayat, had been unearthed from the ruins of their home in Turkey that day. The families were still under the rubble.
The tent camp Mr. al-Yousef is in is near the Syrian town of sarmada, located on the border between Turkey and Syria. “We want them to be buried among their family.”
The family fled to another part of Syria closer to the border with Turkey in the summer of 2013 when shelling and airstrikes worsened in their small village. Soon after, they crossed over to Turkey because Yara’s father could not find work in Syria.
Nearly four million Syrians fled the civil war in their country over a dozen years ago to Turkey. Millions more sought refuge in Jordan, Lebanon and Europe.
The Bab al-Hawa crossing is the only one approved by the United Nations for transporting international aid into opposition-held areas of northwestern Syria, where there was an overwhelming humanitarian need even before the earthquake struck. It is also used by other aid groups.
A top aid official told CNN earlier that efforts to help people in quake-stricken regions of Syria have been “incredibly difficult,” because passage entries along the border were destroyed due to the disaster.
The UN office in Damascus said on Wednesday that the roads to the border crossing were open and the first aid convoy from Turkey was expected to arrive in the coming hours.
Hilfary to Syria during the Second World War II: a Brief Report on the Emergency Preparedness in Dammaged Syrian Refugees
As rescue workers continued to search for survivors, Muslim funeral prayers were being held all across northwestern Syria in the shadows of mounds of rubble.
The men crowded around the back of the van after the van pulled up. A border worker began calling out the names of the dead.
For nearly two hours Mr. al-Yousef and his aunt waited at the crossing, experiencing a wave of disappointment each time new bodies arrived and their young relative was not among them.
The villages and towns where Mr. al-Yousef and his aunt went home had people still trapped under the rubble, waiting for someone to come and rescue them.
Yara’s body would be delayed in its return to Syria, and her parents’ and her brother’s bodies would have to be recovered before she could be returned.
The delivery ended a three-day period during which no aid arrived – just 300 bodies, according to the administration that controls the only access point between the two countries.
70 countries and 14 international organizations have immediately offered teams of rescuers, donations and aid to Turkey in the current situation in Syria.
That leaves rebel-held areas reliant on aid groups including the UN, where millions were already suffering from the effects of extreme poverty and a cholera outbreak when the quake hit.
Syrians don’t know where to get their next meal. When we say meal, it’s not about vegetables, not about meat… it’s about simple bread,” said Moutaz Adham, Oxfam’s country director for Syria.