This is what winter looks like for internally displaced Syrians in a camp in Harbnoush in Idlib province.
It has been nearly nine years since the start of the Syrian War. As Syrian regime attacks, bolstered by Russian air strikes, continue to wage chaos in the war-torn country, civilians are bearing the brunt of the conflict.
The latest developments in Idlib have meant that thousands more Syrians have had to flee their homes, in an exodus towards the north, closer to the border with Turkey.
Turkey has been in regular talks with Russia and Iran about the future of Syria and backs some opposition groups fighting the regime forces. Turkey also hosts more than 3.5 million refugees, more than any other country in the world, and would like to prevent a further influx.
Several camps were set up in the Syrian north to receive the displaced from the Idlib area in particular, as hundreds of thousands of people were displaced from their homes during 2019 while nearly 30,000 have been displaced since the beginning of this year.
According to a March 2019 report from the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), “Across Syria, an estimated 11.7 million people are in need of various forms of humanitarian assistance.”
On January 27, 2020, regime forces captured the town of Maarat al Numan, located about 33 km south of Idlib and 100 km southwest of al Bab. Idlib province and the area north of Aleppo are significant because they form part of the last rebel stronghold.
In the outskirts of the village of Harbnoush in the Idlib province, a camp of about 200 tents has been set up. The numbers of displaced people showing up to seek shelter at the camp increase day by day.
“My two sons,” Aziza Al Yaseen says, “were martyred in the shelling of the regime, and we got out of our homes as a result of the continuous shelling.” She was displaced from the countryside of Maarat al Numan, and it is unclear whether she will ever be able to go back home.
“We do not have any means, and there is no means to seek help from [the authorities],” Yaseen continues. “We have no one but God,” she says, adding that, “we have left everything behind us, our homes have remained the same, and our situation here is getting worse day by day as a result of rain and inclement weather.”
Life is not easy for these people now living in the Harbnoush camps: they have to deal with pouring rains which have left them soaking wet and miserable, as well as severe weather conditions during which they have had to face the cold and wind.
Children of the camp, often barefoot and lightly dressed, venture out to collect firewood for their families so that they may later gather around a fire and find warmth temporarily. Women and girls go out to collect water daily, often returning with just enough to carry out main household tasks such as cooking and washing clothes.