October 21, 2013
Bab al-Salameh camp sits outside the northern Syrian city of Idlib, next to Atmeh camp, one of the largest camps for internally displaced Syrians. Mazen Marzouq, 40, a resident of the Sarmada village outside Idlib, is also an administrator at the camp, where nearly 4,000 of Syria’s 5.1 million IDPs live. Other Syrians prefer to congregate under the olive trees at the camp’s periphery. Nuha Shabaan visited Bab al-Salameh and talked to Marzouq about why camp leaders are more concerned than in previous years about the coming winter.
Q: How many people live in camp?
A: Around 3,700 people, including men, women and children, but mostly women and children.
Q: Who is responsible for the camp?
A: Relief aid teams and relief organizations come every once and a while and there are some individuals donating money. There is a Kuwaiti relief organization and it’s a food organization.
I am a member of the administrative staff. The manager is in Rayihana, Turkey today asking for aid for winter.
Bab al-Salameh Camp in Syria, a few kilometers from the Turkish border.
Q: What are your preparations for winter? It seems winter can be brutal here.
A: We don’t have anything to prepare us for winter this year. Some organizations promised us they would bring heaters and would change the tents, but up until now, as you can see, they have brought nothing.
Q: What will these people do when it starts raining or gets colder?
A: We’ve brought plastic and covered the tents to keep out some of the cold. But most tents are torn and ruined. These tents were not made to last for a long time in harsh weather conditions.
Q: Do any NGOs, or the Red Crescent, visit?
A: The Red Crescent seldom visits liberated areas. They have come, but for a month a half there have been no visits from any Kuwaiti, Asian or Turkish organization.
Q: Are you talking with people from the town about the refugees here? Do you have a plan to transport these families inside the town into houses at least for the winter?
A: Yes, we are always talking to town residents about this matter. We ask who has an empty house to give to refugees, but the towns are now filled. There is no room for any more refugees. We have closed our schools, emptied them and put families of refugees inside.
Q: Is this a safe area?
A: No. We are exposed to shelling and get shelled regularly. Most recently, we were shelled twice after Ramadan. Two weeks ago, Bab al-Hawa was shelled, which is very close to here.
Q: I saw a tent with a school sign, tell me a little about it?
A: Yes, it is a school for students to learn, so that they don’t miss their education. There is also a religious school to teach them the Quran. It is run by educated refugees here, both men and women.
Q: Are all the camp’s children able to study? Do they get recognized degrees?
A: There is a morning shift for children and a night shift for older children. Students don’t get a degree yet, but we are still in the beginning of the school year and don’t know what will happen later on. We are trying to contact some government organization about giving them degrees.
Q: Has anyone from the Coalition, the new government or political opposition visited the camp?
A: A coalition member visited us once, two months ago, and took some pictures. That’s about it.