ATMEH, Syria (AP) — Most of the displaced people in the tent camp rising near this village on the Syrian-Turkish border are children.
All have fled the violence of Syria’s civil war farther south. Many have seen violence themselves. Some have lost relatives, and most have trouble sleeping and panic when they hear loud noises or airplanes, their parents say.
Fighting between the forces of President Bashar Assad and rebels seeking to topple him has sent hundreds of thousands Syrians streaming into neighboring countries.
Rebel organizers say the Atmeh camp was born of necessity some three months ago when Turkey began drastically reducing the number of Syrians allowed to enter that country, leaving tens of thousands stranded in the border area.
Turkey says that more than 112,000 Syrian refugees are sheltering in Turkish camps, and that the crossing process has slowed because of stringent security checks.
The camp, which is run by local rebels who distribute tents and food provided by a smattering of aid organizations, is home to more than 5,000 people, mainly families with multiple children who were among those blocked from entering Turkey.
Children are the most common sight among the tents: foraging for wood for camp fires, carrying jugs of water from the tankers brought in by the rebels, and, at times, playing.
Their faces give hints of how they’ve been affected by the collision of childhood and a civil war that anti-regime activists say has killed more than 36,000 people since March 2011. One girl stares straight ahead, her expression dark. Another places one hand on her hip while raising the other above her head, flashing a V-for-victory sign. Yet another defiantly holds out a fist while clutching a teddy bear
The organizers’ woes are many: New arrivals come every day, there aren’t enough tents, and families often get half as many of the modest meals as they should.
“You can watch the news and know where they are coming from,” said a camp organizer who goes by the name Abu Jaafar for reasons of personal safety. “The areas that are being bombed.”
All expect the situation to get worse when winter hits, lowering temperatures and sending rains that could turn the camp into a muddy bog.
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.