Spending the last ten days of Ramadan aiding refugees between the Turkey and Syria border, ulema from the Jamiatul Ulama in Kwa-Zulu Natal say conditions for Syrians are still catastrophic. The organisation has been involved in a humanitarian relief effort for the last four years, based on the Turkey-Syria border, primarily on the Turkish side of the border, to provide aid for the Syrian refugees.
In the past the organisation has partnered with the IHH Humanitarian Relief Foundation, which is the largest humanitarian relief organisation in Turkey, distributing relief to two orphanages, one of which was an orphanage for children with special needs. This year the organisation spent time in Gaziantep, Kilis and Reyhanli visiting orphanages and went from door to door to assist widows in poor areas with groceries.
Ahmed Mohamedy of the Jamiatul Ulama told VOC News the delegation this year consisted of four members of the ulema body and volunteers. The eight member team included a medical doctor, a businessman and two students.
“The reason why we always take students is so that they can get first-hand exposure to humanitarian services and they are one of the best ways to carry the message of suffering of refugees across,” said Mohamedy.
When the organisation first visited the border almost four years ago in 2013 there were approximately a million Syrian refugees in Turkey. The amount of Syrian refugees in Turkey has now increased to three million; this is excluding the refugees in other countries such as Lebanon and Iraq.
The Jamiatul Ulama KZN organisation is mainly exposed to refugee camps and homes of Syrians in Turkey, and the literacy rate among those Syrians is very poor. This is due to the dire conditions the civilians are living in. For example up to sixty thousand Syrians reside in tents, make shift homes and mobile homes, and although the Turkish NGOs are trying to provide educational facilities, the civilians have put survival on top of their priority list.
“We have to understand that this is a warzone. Life is not being led under normal circumstances, so in abnormal circumstances education is limited and the fight for survival is the greatest aspiration of the people. Education becomes secondary,” said Mohamedy.
More than five years after it began, the full-blown civil war has killed over 250,000 people, half of whom are believed to be civilians. Bombings are destroying crowded cities and horrific human rights violations are widespread. Basic necessities like food and medical care are sparse.
The U.N. estimates that 6.6 million people are internally displaced. When you also consider refugees, well over half of the country’s pre-war population of 23 million is in need of urgent humanitarian assistance, whether they still remain in the country or have escaped across the borders.
The situation becomes bleak as it is difficult for humanitarians to access Syria to deliver aid to those in need. The roads that have been used in Turkey to enter Syria are restricted for the roads have been damaged by aerial bombardment. Although, problematic routes are taken at times by the Turkish NGOs, there are many places in Syria that are under siege and no aid has reached certain areas.
Mohamedy said in certain areas the situations are so dire that the Muftis in Homs have passed a Fatwa to make the consumption of cats permissible as a means of surviving. VOC (Ammarah Qureshi)