War-weary Syrians seek respite at camp on Turkey border

A camp near the Syrian border at Suruç, Turkey.

The Martyrs’ Camp for internally displaced persons, located in the village of Atmeh near Idlib, provides a healthy environment for orphans and widows who lost everything to the conflict in Syria. 

Most families at the camp have lost hope of ever hearing from loved ones arrested by the Assad regime.

Mariam Sallum, 32, a camp resident and mother of three, says she draws hope from her three children. 

Sallum has stayed at the camp for six years, along with her three children: Ali, 7; Omar, 8; and Sidrah, 10.

She says her husband was arrested and taken to a regime prison in Hama six years ago and hasn’t been heard from since. 

“My husband was working in Damascus, then left work and started to work at a bakery,” she said.

“As soon as his contract ended, they arrested him. The [regime] army entered our region and took away many young people,” she added.

“They took my husband and his brother. We haven’t heard from them since. We assume they are dead,” Sallum lamented. 

She said she chose to seek shelter in the city of Idlib because it was close to Turkey.

“This area is safe because it borders Turkey. When we are close to Turkey, there are no airplanes and few attacks,” Sallum explained.

“We cannot return to our village because it is controlled by the regime,” she added. 

Describing life as a widow with three children as “difficult”, she told Anadolu Agency: “My children are my only source of happiness. I think about dying sometimes, but then I think of my children.” 

Sallum said she thinks of her missing husband whenever she gets depressed.

“Sometimes I cannot remember his face so I look at his photos,” she said. “Photos are all I have.” 

After looking at the family photo album, her eldest son, Omar, says: “I don’t feel anything when I look at them; I don’t remember anyone. I only know my mother.” 

Omar’s brother, Ali, however, says he imagines his father returning one day. 

“I bring the juice they give out at school to my mother and share the cookies they give us with my brothers,” Ali says, adding that he wants to be a policeman when he grows up.

Pointing to the Turkish soldiers stationed at the camp, he says: “The Turkish soldiers are here to protect us from Bashar al-Assad.”

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