Loads of stuff done for the past days, and for sure more big days ahead ! Everything is still fine for me, but since friday a lot happened, as we’ve been in a few areas in Kurdistan, visited many refugees camps, and drove through a lot of places ! First of all, as I was saying in my last post, we went to Akre camp site for the Castle Art Project. And that was a really great time which all of us enjoyed I am sure !
Friday : Akre’s camp is a massive concrete block which use to be Saddam’s military base in the area and is now visited weekly by Rise Foundation:) We don’t provide food nor supplies in that camp especially, but we like to entertain the kids which are half of the population of the camp, by painting the walls. – Look at the pictures of what has been done down the article – Each of the volunteers received an assigned kid and had to supervise what they are doing, watching carefully that they are not painting bad stuff mainly;) A few hours later, there was 50 cartoons painted by from 8 to 15 years old Syrian refugees with a lot of colors, smiles and happiness which means a lot for us, and for them first of all of course ! If of course we could do some food distribution instead of that, there are other bigger associations with more funds that are already in charge with that. But to provide happy time to children that are stuck in a camp for over a few years for some of them, that has no price !
Saturday was free day for us. We drove a few hours until near the border of Iran in Rawanduz to visit some caves. Interesting day, more relaxed than the others, and where I really get to know my other working partners, which I can now say that they became good friends. Beautiful Kurdistan, landscapes, people, clothes and nature. Beside all the durts that people are throwing away everywhere, and the ugly architecture of the brick houses, it was really enjoyable. And for me, to be so close to Iran again meant a lot, as so far in a 5 years of traveling all around the planet, this country remains to be my favorite:)
Sunday. Tough day. Emotionally strong, and even if I was prepared for it, visiting a refugee camp that is so massive that you can’t see the end of it from your own eyes, isn’t the most happy time you could have over here. We drove all the way to Dohuk, one of the biggest city of Kurdistan, met the local governor who explained us about the situation, and especially about what he needs most of all. A very interesting meeting as the guy seem to be really into his job, and he is doing an incredible one, and for sure not of the easiest, as coordinating, feeding, and supplying half a million of refugees is not an easy task.
On our way to Dohuk, most of the non-finished buildings are now inhabited by refugees from Syria or Iraq. Kurdish mainly, but also Arabs families and a lot of Yezidis ! The camp we visited that day is Khanki (or Khanke), and is over populated by 65.000 yezidis people that flad from ISIS in august. If you remember about the Sindjar crisis, the yezidis which is a minority of Iraq (500 thousands more or less) were hunted, murdered and expelled from their villages. And if the PKK (Turkish Kurdish Milicia) would not have saved them, they would all have been murdered by ISIS.
During the day we spent in Khanki, we took a lot of pictures, we spoke to many people, and hear some very strong testimonies from families that fled. I will not write here so much about it as those stories are very strong, and very hard to handle once you’ve been told. But I will tell you that all those people had to flee with nearly nothing, no clothes, no food, no water, no papers for most of them as ISIS progresses in Sindjar in august was very fast. All those people, and you might have heard about them in the news as all the medias were focused on them during 2 weeks or something, had to hide in the mountains, and walk on hundreds of kilometers under a 50°c hit. For a majority of those yezidis, they have lost close friends or members of their families, the men systematically killed, the women raped and sold as slaves on Mosul market.
Among all those refugees, a massive cloud of childrens are constantly surrounding us, very smily kids, some with incredible bright eyes (like the Afghan girl with blue eyes from Steve McCurry picture). Some are traumatized from what they have lived, but most of them are really kind, always trying to talk with us, cutely holding our hands, or trying to climb you as little monkeys:)
Temperature in Kurdistan is still fine, but winter is very strong here, and in less than one month, all those kids, all those families and all those people are going to suffer very hard from the cold. I hope that my presence here will help at least some of them to survive from the terrible situation and conditions which they are currently facing…
We spent the night at Silav’s place, a Kurdo-American girl who helped us during those 2 days with her friend Amy (British) for the translation with the locals.
Monday : Now we are going to another city of Kurdistan, closer to Syria and Turkey, called Zakho. Over there, same shitty situation, but no camp. Just refugees living in miserable condition in non-finished buildings, in parks, and in schools. This last place is actually a major problem for Kurdistan and its local inhabitants as most of the children could not go to school this year as the classrooms are full of refugees. Once again, visiting camps, talking with people, asking them what they need at most, and meeting local coordinators. Productive two days, but I would become crazy if I had to do that everyday, as it’s really not easy to handle the looks of thousands of people asking and claiming for help, all at the same time.
Back to Erbil.
I bought a motorbike !