“While the people of Afrin long to return to their homes and land in Afrin, they are also working for the revolution in Shahba,” writes Elif Kaya for Yeni Özgür Politika.
Three years has passed since the occupation of Afrin (Efrîn). Hundreds of thousands of people were forced to leave Afrin after 58 days of shelling from the ground and air by Turkish forces. They could not even say a last farewell to their lands before they left the city. They arrived in the Shahba region in March of 2018. Since then they are hoping to return to their homes. With solidarity, they are also trying to overcome the hardships of living as refugees.
The flowers and vegetables planted in front of their tents and the ruined places they have turned into a living spaces, all together are signs of hope and of the strong culture of the Afrin people. Even in the most difficult of situations they never give up. They are always creative and find a way to solve their problems. They share anything they have with each other as they have grown in the culture of solidarity in the Shahba all living together trying to rebuild their new lives as refugees all together.
This year they’ve had almost no diesel fuel. The Syrian regime did not allow the transfer of diesel oil. It did not only prevent the transfer of diesel, but also of books to read. Books are considered more dangerous than weapons. Teachers, the majority of whom are women, continue their duty with limited materials. Thousands of children receive education in a building, which had been once ruined, but later converted into schools by determined re-construction work of the people of Afrin.
Although traces of war and migration can be seen in every child’s eyes, a child is always a child and they set up playgrounds alongside the demolished buildings.
Holidays are also celebrated differently in Shahba. They promise to meet in Afrin next year during the bairam (celebration) when they meet. They promise to go back to their lands where they have roots. Everybody, including children and old people, asks the same question. “When are we going back to Afrin?” This is the main question of any debate there.
They have planted olive trees there and pruned the trees as well since they want to leave behind beautiful traces when they go back to Afrin one day. Having close relationships and respect for nature is an indispensable part of being human for them. Every tree that has been cut by the cold blooded invaders in Afrin hurts them deep in their hearts but they continue to plant trees.
They have organised the life in Shahba with all its aspects; they have organised a working system of education, art, health, and economics. They have formed their councils for collective decision making.
Women are leaders in every aspect of life and they are decisive in the organisation of social life as in the family. They owe this self esteem to the philosophy of their leader Abdullah Öcalan. One can observe this in any sentence they make.Rebêr Apo (Leader Apo), has been a great motivation for the women to connect with their inner selves.They are empowered and not only the women, but men also saw this reality and respect it.
While the people of Afrin long for their lands and have been waiting to go back to Afrin, they are also working for the revolution in Shahba.