Breaking News Emails
SURUC, Turkey -- The refugee crisis along the Turkish border with Syria is intensifying, as coalition forces conduct airstrikes against ISIS militants and Kurds flee for their lives.
Many of those who've made it across the border are sheltering in centers and local parks here in Suruc, a small but bustling city in southern Turkey. The UN estimates as many as 150,000 refugees have crossed the border since ISIS began an advance on the Kurdish city of Kobani two weeks ago. A U.S. air strike hit ISIS targets around Kobani over the weekend, adding to the mounting chaos in the area.
Many refugees told told NBC News they welcome American air strikes against ISIS, despite their displacement. "We need America's help," one man said. "We believe in God -- and in America," the refugee, Ibrahim Sheikh, added.
For now, Sheikh lives inside a public park here, huddled with his wife and four children beneath the bough of a wide tree, where they eat handout beans and rice from Styrofoam trays. They wonder if they'll ever see their village again. Like many in the park, the Sheikh family is from the small village of Kirk, near Kobani.
Here are the stories of the refugees living at the park in Suruc, along the Turkish border with Syria.
Breaking News Emails
Ibrahim and Basima Sheikh
"We were starving, we were really hungry," said 33 year-old Ibrahim Sheikh. "There were four bakeries close to the village, but they were controlled by ISIS and they wouldn't give bread to the Kurds." Sheikh recalled the one-year siege by ISIS on the area surrounding Kobani. Food was scarce. Electricity cut. And then, only a few weeks ago, ISIS finally made its advance. Finally, one week ago, he and his wife and four children left. "When we heard that ISIS was coming close to our village, the children started to cry and were very afraid," says Basima, 32. The family made its way to Kobani's city center, where they waited for three days before crossing the border into Turkey. "Our future is unclear," Basima said.
When Mona Abdo, 25, fled northern Syria one week ago, she left behind the small women's clothing shop she ran in Kirk. "My shop means everything to me," Abdo said, recalling the tea she drank with her customers. "It was not just an investment or a way to make money." Abdo arrived in Turkey with her parents and her 90 year-old grandmother. She is an only child and she says she does not plan to marry. "I refuse to leave my parents," she said. "They need my help."
"It's very painful if you think about how we were living in one place for 70 years, the house that I grew up in," says Mustafa Abdo, 55, recalling the family farm in Kirk. "It hurts me." Abdo, Mona's father, wonders if he'll see his farm again. Before he left, he let his ten sheep inside his three-room house. In the fields his olive trees, his tomatoes, his cotton plants sit untended to. Abdo blames the international community for not intervening earlier in Syria's civil war. "Where is the United Nations? Where is the security council?" Abdo said. "If America had the will to kill ISIS, to finish them, couldn't they?"
"It was suicidal. But we did it to defend our village," recalled Mahmoud Hami, 30, who as a part of a volunteer guard troop outside Kirk. For one year, he and the other men shared overnight shifts, ready to warn villagers if ISIS came near. "The distance between us and ISIS was between one and one and a half kilometers," Hami says. "We could see their cars, their trucks with machine guns, and their tanks." Finally the pressure was too great. Hami says he and his wife and three children left Kirk when ISIS began its advance earlier this month. Like many of the men here, he says he's considering returning, and leaving his family behind in Turkey. "We don't have enough weapons," he said. "If we could get enough weapons I'd go right away."