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Syrian refugees anxious to return to their homeland

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
October 26th, 2012
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Almost 350,000 Syrian refugees have fled to neighboring nations. Even while a civil war continues to broil their over 18 long months, these displaced Syrians long to return to their homeland.  

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The nation of Turkey alone has already accepted more than 102,000 refugees into the 14 camps built since last year

One of these camps, Islahyieh looks more like a detention facility than shelter for the displaced. Fences are lined with barbed wire and the interior is blurred with some hastily strung together blue tarp. Armed Turkish soldiers sit at lookout posts around the perimeter and guard its entrance.

Islahyieh's 7,825 refugees, many of who escaped their homes without passport or any identification have been provided with picture ID cards they must show to the armed security upon entry and exit from the camp.

A representative of Turkey's foreign ministry stationed in the camp, Halil Geylan says the steps are necessary with the Syrian war raging just miles down the road.

The Turkish government has stepped up to the plate to provide health clinics, medical staff, schools, social centers, tents, translators, food, markets and other means for Syrians to establish some form of transient normalcy inside the camps.

"We don't like to think of [the Syrians] as refugees, but more as guests," Geylan said.

The top military leaders of the Free Syrian Army, the main armed opposition group in Syria, are being housed in the Apaydin camp.

The refugee camps not only support refugees, but also the armed opposition.

Syrian Om Jamal says that she and most other refugees are grateful for Turkish support. "The Turks are better than Arabs," she said while stitching a purse at a sewing workshop in Islahiyeh's social center.

While she says she had few complaints about staying in the camps, but that "one can never replace living in [one's] country by living in another.

"God willing we'll go back."

Many refugees have started to create small stands from which they sell goods such as food, cigarettes, vegetables, candy and mobile phone parts.

"We'll keep fighting until we topple [President Bashar] al-Assad," Abu Taha said while preparing a falafel sandwich for a young customer.

He said he had opened his falafel stand "Freedom Restaurant" because camp residents were growing tired of the free food provided by a local catering company hired by the government.

There are concerns among camp residents that the tents would not be livable for the cold winds and rains that were expected in the mountainous region of southern Turkey. Many have begun covering their tents in plastic tarps to further shelter themselves from the elements.

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