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A Year Later, Syrian Refugees Still Long to Return Home

October 12, 2020, 08.09 PM

HASAKEH, – Wadha Sharmoukh is among the many Syrian refugees wanting to return home after Turkey and their Syrian proxies captured her family's hometown in northern Syria from Kurdish forces a year ago.

Sharmoukh and others fled their towns and villages when Ankara's October 2019 offensive seized a 120-kilometer (70-mile) long strip of land on the Syrian side of its southern border.

Since then, she has given birth to her now five-month-old baby girl in a dusty camp crowded with civilians and fellow Syrian refugees vying for their return home.

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"My five-month-old daughter Berivan was born in the camps. She has never seen a home. She has just been squeezed into a tent," she told AFP in the settlement in the northeastern province of Hasakeh.

"What kind of life is that, of a child born and raised in a tent?" asked the 29-year-old woman, an Arab from the town of Ras al-Ain.

Sharmoukh and her family are among tens of thousands of Syrian refugees who have been forced out of their homes and into tented settlements in areas still controlled by the Kurds.

Their homes and belongings have been seized or looted in the year since Turkey's operation ended, human rights groups say, leaving them with little to return to — if they are able to return at all.

"The future is bleak and we feel hopeless," Sharmoukh said, explaining that accusations that her husband has been working with Kurdish authorities would make any return very dangerous.

Read also: Gallup Poll Shows Migrant Acceptance on the Decline Globally

"I try to forget sometimes, but how can someone forget their home and the things they have worked their entire lives to build?"

'Like a grave'

Life as Syrian refugees has not always been easy including for Sharmoukh who has to watch her three daughters grow up in the camps.

"I wonder about my daughters' future if things stay this way," she said inside their emergency shelter, her children gathered around her on a mat.

"When they grow up, how will they feel when they leave the camp and see how other people are living?"


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