Syrian refugees hunger for justice

Syrian refugees hunger for justice
Syrian refugees who have been subjected to the extremities of snowstorm Huda have called for a hunger strike over appalling living conditions in the camps.
3 min read
13 January, 2015
Syrian refugees face harsh living conditions at the Atmeh refugee camp in Idlib [Anadolu]
Displaced Syrians are calling for a hunger strike over the dire conditions of the refugee camps in which they have taken shelter from the violence in their home country.

The campaign began in Atmeh camp, on the Syrian-Turkish border, but is taking root in camps both inside and outside Syria that are home to millions of refugees.

Activists at Atmeh called the hunger strike, saying they expected other camps to take part in the protest.

The strike has been named "We die for our children to live".

Abu al-Alaa al-Halabi, one of the organisers of the protest, told al-Araby al-Jadeed that they wanted conditions in the camp to be improved.
We are also demanding an increase of medical and food assistance, which was recently reduced.
- Abu al-Alaa al-Halabi, hunger striker

"We are also demanding an increase of medical and food assistance, which was recently reduced," he said.

Spreading the protest

Halabi said that organisers had been in touch with refugees in Lebanon's Arsal camp, Zaatari in Jordan, and camps scattered across the northern Aleppo countryside, spreading the call for refugees to join them in the hunger strike.

Abu al-Abd al-Shamali, another activist involved in the campaign, said that they took action after a recent winter storm claimed the lives of an infant and woman in her fifties at Atmeh.

The mountainside camp is exposed to sub-zero temperatures during winter.

Residents are demanding new tents, appropriate for winter conditions, and also heating facilities and food aid.

Activists say that a quarter of the camp's residents do not receive any food assistance.

Residents of the Orient refugee camp, also on the Syrian-Turkish border, said they would join the Atmeh refugees in the strike.

"Men, women and children [will strike] until the president of the Syrian National Coalition and the head of the interim government or their representatives, and the head of the Assistance Coordination Unit [SNC's relief body] and the head of the Association of Syrian Refugees come to witness the disastrous state of affairs at the refugee camp after the storm," said one resident.

Failure to secure aid

Bassam Abu Mohammed, director of the camp, issued a statement demanding that the Syrian National Coalition (SNC) provide the necessary aid to residents during the winter.

We are willing to die of starvation for our children to live.
- Hunger strikers' statement

Many activists are holding the SNC and interim government responsible for any harm that comes to those taking part in the hunger strike.

"All free Syrians and the free people of the world [should] stand in solidarity with us during this strike, as the regime destroyed our houses because we demanded our freedom and dignity. We are willing to die of starvation for our children to live," the strikers' statement read.

Groups in several refugee camps north of Aleppo - home to 130,000 refugees - have announced their participation in the hunger strike.

Around 20 Syrian refugees have died due to Huda, the snowstorm that swept across much of the Middle East last week.

Meanwhile, the Syrian conflict is entering its fourth year, and has resulted in four million refugees outside Syria and seven million internally displaced.

This article is an edited translation from our Arabic edition.