Conflict & Justice

Syria Crisis: Activists Trying to Send Aid Into Syria From Turkey

There's no one for miles around this muddy field near the Turkish-Syrian border to hear anything. But that didn't stop the 300 activists from singing "damn you Hafez," about the father of Bashar Al Assad and founder of Baath party rule in Syria.

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"The concept is a bunch of Syrians from around the world, coming together in a convoy, with humanitarian aid and trying to get them into Syria, to try to break the siege on Syrian cities," says Syrian-born Anas Nader, who came with a group from London. "Right now we have mainly food, baby milk, medications, bandages, and pain killers and that kind of medication basic care packages for the people of Syria. Whether they are injured civilians — or food aid for starving families and kids."

There are two convoys: one here, near Syria's northern border, another from Jordan in the south. The isolated location of this protest could be seen as symptomatic of the impractical nature of the activists' fight.

But a woman calling herself Syriana Jihad, who's lived in Turkey for 15 years, is confident that eventually their message will get out — and that the aid will get through to those who need it in Syria.

"We're really very persistent," she says. "We feel psychologically we're very high, and we believe 100 percent that we will be victorious."

A year after the uprising that began in Deraa things are not going well for anti-government forces. The rebel Free Syrian Army is on the run following a major army offensive in the north. Civilians are unable to escape the besieged city of Idlib. And reports are emerging of massacres and massive destruction by the Syrian military.

"So its a matter of feeling sad, at the same time, i think its pushing us to be more strong and be more unified, and to focus on our purpose: for a free and civil Syria," Syriana Jihad says.

About a third of the crowd were refugees living in camps in Turkey. But others came from far away, hoping that the closer they got to Syria the more they could support the struggle. Ibrahim Basha came from Detroit, where he's a student at Wayne State University. Even though there is little practical help the activists here can provide in Syria, he says their presence helps.

"Moral support obviously is huge, we don't want that fire to not burn anymore," says Basha.

"The people over there have been doing this for a year and have continued to do so, with all the killing and arrests and they are still going strong," Basha says. "So if it's going to take 300 people over here to give them that extra push or what not, we should do that. Because what they are doing over on the inside there is very courageous and brave. So we're just trying to do our little part to help."

It didn't come as much of a surprise when the Syrian authorities refused permission for the convoy to cross into Syria. So the Red Crescent took over the aid and said it would try to deliver it to Syria or else distribute it to refugees in the camps in Turkey. This latest convoy was the third attempt in the past year, and it most likely won't be the last.

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    Syrian activists gathered on a basketball court surrounded by muddy fields outside Kilis in southern Turkey. (Photo: Matthew Brunwasser)
  • Ibrahim-Basha300.jpg

    Ibrahim Basha (Photo: Matthew Brunwasser)

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