This is a guest post by Rachel Emec and is her account of her visit to a refugee camp in eastern Turkey. Her original post can be seen here:
Rachel is raising money for this camp here: http://www.gofundme.com/t3pkgs
My News & My Refugee Camp Visit
I haven’t really posted on the forum much over the past year … but there are a few things that I would like to share with you that may be of interest to some members. I also wanted to update members who were involved with my charity collections sending clothes, toys and teddies to refugees from Syria.
A few years ago I wrote a thread about my travels to Diyarbakir in The South East Of Turkey which I had a great response from.
I’d like to tell you about my most recent trip and the events leading up to it. (sorry if it’s long but I’ll try and be brief).
Many of you may know that for years I have been involved in Kurdish issues, I’ve signed hundreds of human rights petitions, set up charity collections, helped Kurdish children get an education, I’ve protested about inequality and inhumanity. I’ve been touched by many things for many years but never have I been touched by anything more than this.
In early March this year I read about the death of a young man, Konstandinos Erik Scurfield. A 25 year old former Royal Marine he left the UK to travel to Syria to fight alongside Kurdish forces. On the 2nd March 2015 he was sadly killed. What touched me so much was the fact that Kosta wasn’t Kurdish…in fact he had no links to the Kurdish cause or community. He wasn’t a mercenary, he’d had a promising career in The Marines. He took the medical training he had learnt and travelled to Syria not for money or to be a hero, he simply wanted to help.
I attended Kosta’s funeral here in Nottingham on 26th March. Like many of the hundreds of people there I had never met him…but on that day, in that church I looked at his coffin and his family and I decided that what I’ve done in my life for others just wasn’t enough!
On 3rd April this year….still reeling with the emotion of the previous week I travelled to Turkey with my husband and 2 sons. It was a trip for Kawa and Lesker to see Granny and granddad and for me to catch up with some things and with some friends. It wasn’t long before I was told in some detail about the Ezidi refugee camp on the outskirts of Diyarbakir. In desperate need of help I was asked if I’d visit. Then a former member of TLF messaged me suggesting a visit so I arranged to go and have a look around. So I did….
The camp holds 6000 Ezidi refugees, 3500 of those are children. Babies are being born and the camp has only 2 cots. The Turkish Government does not and has not donated one kurus YES not ONE PENNY to the camp’s running costs. Nor does the UN, nor any other charity or organisation. Turkey blocks any group from working in there. The camp has been set up and is run entirely by public donations and goodwill.
On entering the camp I was met by a middle aged man who had quite severe learning difficulties, he had escaped the Brutal massacre of Ezidi men…how I was soon to find out.
I had free access to the camp, my husband’s friend volunteers as a doctor and my sister in law has a friend who helped process the refugees. When they first came she worked for 40 days and nights with minimal sleep to help settle them. The people working there are living angels x
There are sooo many children, it hits you. There are elderly, not many men and fewer young women. I hope I can post photos at the end of the post but there is a beautiful young lady of about 18, I really connected with her. I thought that the young girl that she had was her daughter. Sadly not, mum had been murdered and this was the aunt. Surrounded by children many without parents she cared for so many.
The stories that they tell of what was behind them are horrific…utterly horrific and I feel unable to share most with you.
I was approached by an Ezidi elder who invited me to his home. Home for everyone is a tent, a foam mattress and a blanket. Tents have a small area for preparing food and some have a heater. Everything is communal there, showers, washing facilities, clothes stores. It costs 8000 lira a day to run the camp…not much per head.
Before I sat he held my hand and thanked me for visiting. He spoke English, Kurdish and Turkish among other languages. He told me very firmly that the only reason that the majority of those in the camp were alive was because of The PKK. It was a message that EVERY ONE of those refugees that came from Shingal in Iraq told me. The PKK fought ISIS to the death, they carried the disabled, the old and the children to safety….and that is the reason Turkey ignores this camp. The Turkish government will only allow aid to get to it if Ezidi refugees publicly deny The PKK’s help.
Turkey have also said that they want the small school closed inside the camp unless it teaches in Turkish (all the children speak Kurdish). Turkey in fact wants to ban any Kurdish being spoken at all in the camp (this even applies to the volunteer counsellors that help the rape victims!)
The next group of people I spoke to were refugees from Mount Sinja. They spoke of how they were saved by The YPG and (deep breath!) a group of foreign fighters fighting alongside them. I didn’t really speak until they told me that some spoke English.
I’d read that Kosta posted on his Facebook page that he had helped lift the siege of Sinja mountain… here I was sitting with women and children that he had directly help save. A week before I was weeping at his funeral, now I was weeping at what he’d done. I showed these few refugees the photos I had of his funeral….and we all wept together.
I spent quite a bit of time at the camp (and I think you’ve probably had enough of me already) but walking out I decided that if I am to do anything in my life it’s to help these people.
We have to stand up to ISIS, in doing so we are standing up for humanity. These people were good people, they just happened to be Ezidi and therefore a target for ISIS. The camp now holds families from Kobane, unable to go home due to the ongoing fighting and threat of ISIS.
Kosta’s mum has set up a petition that needs more people to sign
There is also a group:
Kosta’s Olive Tree
Thanks for reading so far. I also just wanted to thank everyone who donated to my clothing and teddy collections over the years. I’ve been in contact with some people who benefited from them when they needed help. Syria is in turmoil and at that time the West didn’t know just how much. We got clothing to people before aid agencies did…so Thankyou x