Apr 11, 2013

Circassia: A Circassian Take On Syrian War

Circassians arriving safely to Turkey and escaping Syria recount their struggle for life and freedom.

Below is an article published by World Bulletin:

Circassians in Syria who have chosen not to take sides in the more than two-year-long civil war in the country were brought to Turkey last week from Beirut, where they had taken refuge. Today's Zaman spoke to them at a refugee camp in Nizip, a district of Gaziantep province. The accounts of the Circassians show how the violence in Syria has brought great suffering.

The group of Circassians, 180 people out of which 27 are children, were flown to Turkey by private plane thanks to the help of the Solidarity Committee of World Circassians (DÇDK). “We have been left without a homeland and hope. People in Syria are not even valued as much as a chicken, say Ekrem and Semaze Harun, who arrived in Turkey with their three children. The Circassians say they had to leave Syria because they chose to remain impartial. They first took shelter in Beirut. Ekrem Harun said he was selling medical supplies in Syria but had to leave everything behind when the war broke out. He said they only took their pajamas and passports with them. “We don't have any plans for tomorrow. Our only plan for now is to survive,” Ekrem Harun said.

“In Syria, no one has any assurance about their life, property or honor. We had no other option but to flee. We were left without a homeland and hope. When we were desperate, Turkey opened its arms to us,” the couple said. According to Ekrem Harun, Syria is being dragged into a sectarian war. “There are around 100,000 Circassians in the country, but they live quite far from each other. When the war began, we chose to be impartial, but we were caught between two fires [one from the regime, one from opposition forces]. The most dangerous thing in Syria for now is to remain impartial. Everyone is our enemy,” he said.

Noting that despite the fact that villages on the Israeli border are under the control of the United Nations, Ekrem Harun said they were bombed by Syrian forces for 10 days. “When the war began, most of the Circassians fled to the village of Berika, which is under the control of the United Nations. Several people from the Free Syrian Army [FSA] came to the village. Noticing this, forces of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad constantly bombed the village, which has a population of 600, for 10 days from a distance of one kilometer. We had four shelters since we were on the Syrian-Israeli border. We stayed there for 10 days. Seven villagers who went out of the shelters in order to bring food and water were killed by regime forces. Then the bombardments ceased due to rain and fog. Taking advantage of the fog, we fled to another village on foot. There was no building standing. All of them were destroyed by heavy bombing.”

In further remarks, Ekrem Harun said Circassians in Damascus came to the village with several buses to save them. Semaze Harun said she left all her relatives back in Syria. “My siblings, parents are all there. I am concerned about their lives,” she said, adding that she always prays for the war to end.

‘This is a matter of being Muslim, human and being kin'

DÇDK President Nusret Baş said the committee has been making efforts for the past five months in order to provide financial and moral support to those who fled the war in Syria. He said there are 25 Circassian families in İstanbul while the number of these families across Turkey is 500.

“The places where Circassians lives in Syria are far from the border. It is not possible for them to enter Turkey directly. They flee either to Jordan or Beirut. We are relocating Circassian families who fled the war in Syria to the homes of sister families in different parts of the country. We do our best to help them. These people left everything behind, they are devastated, they need love and attention," he said.