Dear Deeply Readers,

Welcome to the archives of Syria Deeply. While we paused regular publication of the site on May 15, 2018, and transitioned some of our coverage to Peacebuilding Deeply, we are happy to serve as an ongoing public resource on the Syrian conflict. We hope you’ll enjoy the reporting and analysis that was produced by our dedicated community of editors contributors.

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Conversations: Cross Border Relief Worker

As part of our effort to highlight civilian stories, below is a conversation between Syria Deeply and a young Syrian relief worker. Amer, 30, was a lawyer before he joined a team of relief workers in Hatay, Turkey, last spring, making daily trips to deliver aid across the Syrian border.

Written by Abu Leila Published on Read time Approx. 2 minutes

(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][2]][2]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.


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