(We are withholding his full name and the identity of his organization):
What you see in the rebel-held rural areas, where we go to deliver aid, changes your vision and memory of Syria forever. The amount of heavy artillery and the weaponry we see while passing from each rebel checkpoint is shocking. We sometimes pass by leveled villages and towns and don’t remember what existed there before.
[![Shabbiha Checkpoint]]Since we go into Syria several days a week, most of the rebel checkpoints already recognize us. They know that we are helping homeless, hungry and displaced people so they let us pass. But sometimes when different rebel groups take over other rebel checkpoints, we start having problems. For example, after the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) took over some of the checkpoints in Idlib province, we stopped sending aid workers who are from religious or ethnic minorities, because of the risk of being arrested and kidnapped by ISIS.
Each time we stop at an ISIS checkpoint we meet someone from a different nationality. Sometimes they speak fluent English, and sometimes they don’t even know a word of Arabic. However, they never reveal anything about themselves. In fact, you can’t really ask these guys too many questions.
There are a lot of stories about mistreatment, humiliation, rapes, killings and robberies in the refugee camps outside Syria. But the refugee camps inside Syria are not to be compared with the ones in Turkey or elsewhere. They are in a much more miserable condition, and they are more numerous. A landowner gives his land to a large group of refugees to rent, and he then treats them as his subjects. The landowner refuses to let us take the aid to those camps, so the only way to deliver it is to hand it to him. We know well that a portion, maybe a large portion, of the much-needed aid won’t reach the hands of those refugees, but we have no other choice.
My friends and I, who are doing this work with me, are living in schizophrenic-like conditions. One day we have a safe, normal life in Hatay, and the next day we cross the border to a Wild West-like zone. Before I left my neighborhood in a regime-held area in Aleppo, I lived in a different world. The image of my country that I used to have is gone forever.