By Abdullah Dogan
Tent cities set up in Syria’s opposition-held northwestern city of Idlib host hundreds of thousands of displaced civilians who have fled from conflict zones during the last six years of war.
One Anadolu Agency correspondent recently visited the area, accompanied by officials from Turkey’s Humanitarian Relief Foundation (IHH), to film life inside Idlib’s sprawling tent cities.
According to IHH officials, some 300,000 people now live in nearly 25 such cities set up throughout Idlib, which sits 12 kilometers south of the Turkish border.
Scores of trucks can be seen lining up at the Cilvegozu border crossing linking Syria to the Reyhanli district of Turkey’s southern Hatay province.
Brimming with commercial goods and aid supplies, the trucks represent the tent-dwellers’ main -- if not only -- source of humanitarian relief.
A burnt-out armored vehicle, sitting roughly one kilometer inside Syrian territory, serves as a reminder of the war-torn country’s grim situation.
The IHH has set up the Babul Air Logistic Depot inside Syria near the Turkish border, from which humanitarian aid is distributed to refugee camps farther afield.
Traveling along the 12-kilometer road from the border to the tent cities, numerous checkpoints -- manned by armed opposition fighters -- can be seen.
When approaching the tent city, several make-shift shops can be seen across the road selling hand-made crafts, foodstuffs, electronic equipment and clothing.
An estimated 150,000 people currently live in Al-Kerami -- the first of Idlib’s tent cities to be seen along this route -- most of whom rely on the steady stream of humanitarian aid coming from Turkey.
Local residents of the area, for their part, have continued to live their lives based largely on farming, despite the overwhelmingly negative impact of the conflict in their country.
The two largest tent cities boast a host of electric technicians, shoe repairers, butchers, hairdressers and other craftsmen. The IHH, meanwhile, has continued to provide vocational training for the cities’ inhabitants.
Amid an ongoing lack of electricity and water, the large tankers coming from Turkey represent the tent-dwellers’ only source of fresh water.
Solar panels, meanwhile, can be seen above most tents, revealing inhabitants’ sole source of electricity.
Ambulances and mobile inspection vehicles are used to provide displaced people with health services amid stepped-up humanitarian activity by both the IHH and the Turkish Red Crescent.
The city’s makeshift tents host an average of six people each. A part of the tents, which measure between 10 and 12 square meters, are used as kitchens, while remaining areas are used as work areas or bedrooms.
Sleeping areas are generally equipped with carpets, cushions, mattresses and blankets.
Camp dwellers share common lavatories set up throughout the tent cities, while women wash dishes and clothes with water taken from tanker trucks.
School-aged children, meanwhile, receive a modicum of education in disused buildings.
Most camp residents follow political developments in their country on television, hoping and praying for an end to the conflict that has stolen their homes, livelihoods and -- in some cases -- their loved ones.