News / Middle East

    Syrian Refugees in Iraq Face Harsh Winter

    Sebastian Meyer
    As the conflict in Syria approaches its second anniversary, the number of refugees crossing into Iraq continues to rise. The United Nations and international relief groups are no longer able to provide aid to Syrian families who are facing dire winter conditions in flimsy, ill-equipped camps.

    Freezing rain falls on the Arbat Refugee Camp in northern Iraq, more than 400 kilometers from the Syrian border. In the past five months, more than 500 Syrian refugees have traveled to this ad hoc camp in the middle of a bean field.

    The children who are not playing outside in the mud try to stay warm by burning refuse found in an abandoned sheep barn.

    Fuaz Akil is an ethnic Kurd from the Syrian city of Deir Ezzor. He's living with his family of 10 in a tent donated by the semi-autonomous Kurdish government of northern Iraq.

    "We didn't come here for pleasure. We're suffering. Our house was destroyed. We lost everything. We came here because this is Kurdistan and these are our people," he said. "But still we are suffering. We're not living in this tent for fun. We had our own house. We had our own car. Our own tractor."

    With more than 80,000 Syrian refugees in Iraq, the U.N. and other international agencies aren't supplying essentials to those crossing the border.

    Tents, toilets, and food have been donated by the local government or by local charities.

    Fatma Moussa, also a Kurd, traveled nearly a thousand kilometers from Aleppo after her house was destroyed by a rocket.

    "It was the middle of the night when we left Aleppo. We were driven to Hasaka and then to the Iraqi border. It was snowing and I had to carry my son on my back," she said.

    As the rain falls, children dart between shelters, trying to stay dry.

    With the conflict in Syria showing no signs of abating, these refugees will continue to suffer through a harsh winter in the foothills of Iraq.

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    Comment Sorting
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    by: JKF from: Ottawa, Canada
    February 07, 2013 11:04 AM
    Are these refugees getting ignored, because they are in a remote Kurdish area, that does not have infrastructure? If the UN can't provide relief at the location, why does not the UN provide funds to move the refugees to an area it can help them? I do not know how these UN experts work; surely it should only take someone with an average IQ to resolve this issue; we are not talking about having to deliver help to the Moon?

    They spend millions going to conferences/training seminars, and yet still they can't seem to solve the simplest of problems! In my opinion, if they can't solve this simple problem, the UN must be filled with too many people appointed by patronage, rather than ability, natural capabilities and a touch of common sense, for surely they are not biased against Kurdish refugees? or are they?

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