The Shengal Yezidi Camp in Fidanlık, Amed (Diyarbakir) is a camp that has been set up over a year ago to support over 3000 refugees who fled the slaughter of ISIL terrorists. There are currently over 700 families who live in the camp. Some have lost entire families, some have lost partial family members, many are justifiably traumatized, including the women and the children in the camp. Currently the camp faces severe conditions and is in dire need of essential supplies and aid. over the past few months over 200 children have been born into the camp with an estimated 100 more ready to be born in the next 1-3 months. The camp representatives mentioned that women’s hygiene and sanitary products were in dire and urgent need. For the past 30 days no women in the camp had access to female hygiene products. Baby clothes, shoes, blankets and other necessities were next on the list.
But more importantly, as winter approaches the camp is ill equipped to handle the coming winter and they are in desperate need of new tents, and to “winterise” the tends- meaning wooden bases that need to be built for the tents to sit on to reduce the impact of the freezing weather. Ideally the camp would require container homes as they are much better against the elements but no NGO has come forward to date to provide this urgent need. The Kobane Reconstruction Board and the Rojava Association are currently working to see if they can provide support and locate some organisations in this regard.
Despite the severe limitations, there were aspects of the camp that were incredibly well functioning. They have an on the ground make shift ‘hospital’ consisting of 5 rooms (1 for psychological support, 1 maternity, 1 gynaecology, and 2 for general medical conditions and needs). Unfortunately the camp lacks adequate psychological survives with currently the NGO ‘Doctors WorldWide’ providing two- one male and one female- psychologist to the camp and they have only started operating there in the past 1.5 months. The female psychologist mentioned that the camp needed at least one more female mental health provider and ideally at least 4 more to handle the demands of the camp. Tragically two women had already committed suicide due to lack of adequate mental health support. At least 10 more were on suicide watch. The Kurdish women’s Community was also providing ‘off the camp’ mental healthcare to the affected women. The Yezidi Federation has also been providing support but is understandably overwhelmed. No NGOs other than the above noted organisation currently provides mental health care or other services. Previous organisations have all left due to funding restrictions.
Despite the obviously terrible conditions, the situation in the camp is widely considered to be the best among the number of other smaller refugee camps in Mardin, Batman and other locations. The camp is run and supported by the Rojava Association and the Amed municipality (a post I made a few days ago with the food warehouse was providing food to this camp). Because the camp is not ‘government run’ it lacks official government funding and support. The closest and largest ‘official’ refugee camp is the Afat refugee camp. However, the government run refugee camp is run more like a detention center, and where Yezidi cultural practices and traditions are strictly discouraged, where Kurdish writing is forbidden and where the camp promotes an Islamic-Arabic-Turkish identity and education system; including learning the history of the Turkish state with each day commencing with a march and salute to the Turkish state.
In turn the government provides the refugees with healthcare cards which allows them greater access to health care; however, they are only able to leave the camp under strict conditions. Many Yezidis wish to leave the Afat camp but unable to join the much more relaxed and supportive conditions of the Shengal Camp. Unfortunately the camp could not even take in even two more families as they cannot provide more people with enough food, let alone other necessities.
European NGOs have provided extremely limited help and support, if at all, to these refugees. Local organisations as a result have started to experience donor fatigue due to the increased burden.
Supporting refugee communities is a collective and moral international responsibility. It is one that each and every single one of us should be invested in supporting to ensure that the displaced and traumatized have some semblance of normality and dignity, simply because they are human like you and I. Despite their trauma the people in the camp were some of the nicest, most welcoming people, many of whom offered us their homes and asked us to join them for tea. The children swarmed around us, their bright eyes so full of hope that it shamed me to the core to look back with nothing to offer; that my hands were empty; that I could not do more; The people of this camp, their resilience, their strength is not something that I can adequately capture here and certainly not with the level of eloquence it surely deserves…
But you can help to make a difference. You can provide support and donate to the camp by contacting the Rojava Association: http://www.rojavadernegi.com/BizeUlasin