A version of this article was originally published on Syria Deeply.
By Ahmad Khalil
“I will never forget the night of September 27, 2014, when my mom came in, screaming, telling us to bring whatever we can carry.”
Naline is a 14-year-old Syrian-Kurdish girl from Karamough, 20 kilometers east of Kobani. Her temporary home is one of the mosques of Srooj City, which is a rural district in Turkey, near the Syrian border. She and her family are sharing the small space with 43 other people. She tells Syria Deeply the story of what happened to them on their exit from the besieged town.
I will never forget the night of September 27, 2014 when my mom came in, screaming, telling us to bring whatever we can carry: “Just get some clean underwear and winter jackets. It is going to get cold, but do not carry heavy stuff, we do not know how long we will walk, and neither do we know if the Turks will let us in.” I immediately went to the closet and took out my new Eid clothes, so I can wear them when we get back to the town when all this is over. We headed to the border, and I had a bag in which I had stuffed my new clothes.
We gathered at the border gate. The people who were there told us that the Turks had let only 40 people in, and the others were waiting. My family and I waited with around 250 other people, mostly women and kids. We spent the night, and we were scared because of the explosions we kept hearing now and then. We knew these bombs were being dropped on our homes. It was horrifying.
The next morning the Turks would not let us in, and some of the people went back to the village because the bombing had stopped. My mom refused to go back. All the women were talking about what happened in Sinjar, Iraq, where women were being sold and raped, and men decapitated.
We did not go back to Kobani. The bad news reached us quickly: some relatives told us that the town was being bombarded and that ISIS had advanced a lot. They had taken 40 kilometers in less than 24 hours, took over more than 40 villages, and were now less than one kilometer away from Kobani.
At 2:30 p.m., the shelling started again, but this time it was more intense; the tanks were bombarding the entrance of the town. More people had fled the city by this time, and all the inhabitants were at the border in less than one day. We were very scared. The Turkish soldiers were looking at us and not doing a thing. I began to think, is it possible that ISIS would come and take us from under their noses—that they would still show no mercy and keep saying, “We are waiting for orders?”
Everyone was talking about ISIS’s progress, that it has entered some of our homes and killed those who were left. Those who remained could not stand in the face of ISIS’s enormous amount of Iraqi weapons.
Suddenly someone started shouting, “The Turks have agreed to let us in!” I carried my bag of new clothes and my family and I ran to the Turkish soldiers so they could search our stuff and let us in. Afterwards, we headed to Srooj, a Turkish city on the border with Kobani. We gathered in the arena and they split us in two groups. One went to stay in the mosque and the other to the school.
Meanwhile, it did not take long for ISIS to enter our village. When I first heard the news, I thought, what happened to my closet? My photo album, my clothes and bed? Did they burn it? I cannot stop thinking those things. I cry myself to sleep thinking of all the stuff I’ve left behind.
We heard from some relatives that some people in remote villages to the east of the city have returned to their homes despite ISIS’s control of the area, and nothing has happened to them. They also told us that all the houses were opened and searched, but they did not mention any theft or burning of any of the houses, unless the owner was proven to be a PKK or YPJ fighter.
I was relieved that we are not affiliated to any party, which means my stuff is probably still in place. But the case was different in other villages. In Khrab Nas, for instance, some of the inhabitants have returned, but no one has heard anything about them since. My uncle also told us that ISIS has slaughtered some elderly people and young children in Khrabisan and Beghnek. Another man from a village located between our village and Kobani told us that a woman was killed by a sniper, and that ISIS was firing at cattle that people were trying to take while leaving their homes.
A lot of people from our village, around 300 with lots of women and children, are now sitting on the Syrian side of the border with their cattle, because the Turks would not let their barn animals in. I went there with mom and dad on the second day of Eid, and they told us that they are getting only one food basket a day from the Turkish Red Crescent. I asked my friend, who was there with her family, “Why don’t you leave your cattle and get to the other side?” She told me that the animals are their main source of income, and that they cannot abandon them. But now after six days with no food the animals are almost dead…unable to stand or produce milk.
Ahmad Khalil is the pseudonym of a Damascus-based Syria Deeply contributor.
[Photo courtesy of Syria Deeply]