Taher al-Matar’s home in northwest Syria is in ruins, but he has returned there to live in it. He decided it was safer to live in the wreckage of his house than to stay in a camp for displaced people. Such camps are crowded, and he fears getting infected with the coronavirus.
Matar worries that the ceasefire in the Idlib area may not last. Yet he is clearing rubble from what remains of his house. He looks for any unexploded shells that could have fallen near it during the the government’s latest offensive.
“It’s better than living in the camps. We were there, we lived the humiliation,” he told the Reuters news agency.
Matar’s home is in Nairab, a town close to territory held by rebels from Russian-backed Syrian government forces. A missile struck the house three months ago.
“They tell us to stay home because of corona...but in the camps, the tents are right next to each other and people can’t keep their distance,” Matar said.He wants to spend Islam’s holy month of Ramadan with his six children at home.
Thousands of Syrians have started moving back to the Idlib region since Russia and Turkey negotiated a truce. The ceasefire took effect in March. It stopped an offensive in the last remaining rebel-held area in Syria.
The fighting has displaced nearly 1 million people. Many had already fled other battles earlier in the nine-year war. Officials are worried that the new coronavirus could infect displaced persons in the over-crowded camps. So far, there have been no confirmed cases.
A local aid agency reported that nearly 120,000 people had returned to towns in Idlib and the Aleppo countryside since the ceasefire.
“What will happen next, only God knows... At the end of the day, a person has nothing but his home,” said Saher al-Ali. He is a driver who also went back to Nairab to try fixing his house.
Air strikes destroyed the windows and doors even before his family escaped. At first, Ali searched for other houses, but they were all too costly or full. They were in the camps before they returned.
“Where was I supposed to live? In the camps or in the street?... If the battles come back, we will flee again,” he said.
I’m Bryan Lynn.
The Reuters News Agency reported this story. Susan Shand adapted it for Learning English. George Grow was the editor.
Words in This Story
rubble – n. debris left by destruction
humiliation – n. causing someone embarrassment
tent – n. a large clothe erected as a place to sleep outdoors