Muhammad, 26, at the Bab al-Hawa border post on the border with Syria and Turkey. Photo: InfoMigrants/Dana Alboz
Muhammad, 26, at the Bab al-Hawa border post on the border with Syria and Turkey. Photo: InfoMigrants/Dana Alboz

After the devastating February 6 earthquakes in parts of Turkey and Syria, Syrian refugees settled in Turkey are questioning their future. Many have lost everything they built over the past ten years. Some, like Muhammad and his family, have chosen to return to Syria. Despite the ongoing bombing of their hometown Idlib, they hope to find solace in the company of their family members.

"Syria is a very dangerous country. Idlib scares me. Bombs terrify me. If we die in the bombings, at least we will be buried in Syria. After everything we have lived through, this might be our last hope.

We escaped death in Idlib. Today, [with the earthquakes], we have escaped death once again.

We managed to leave our house as soon as the first earthquake hit [on February 6, 2023, at around 4 a.m.]. By the time of the second quake, we saw buildings fall and then our building collapsed. We fled with only the clothes we were wearing.

The earthquakes that struck Turkey and Syria killed more than 45,000 people in both countries. According to the Turkish authorities, the earthquakes destroyed or seriously destroyed 118,000 buildings.

[Since the earthquake], the authorities set up camps in the cities, especially to accommodate Turks. We tried to get a tent, but no one responded to our request. We just wanted a place to shelter from the rain, snow and cold. In the cold and without a tent, we decided to return to Syria.

We will never forget the day our house was bombed

Since February 15, the Syrians benefiting from temporary protection in Turkey and living in one of the ten regions affected by the February 6 earthquakes have permission to travel to Syria for a period of up to six months.

In Idlib, our house was bombed on September 29, 2016. We will never forget this date. I was with my family: my mother and my four brothers and sisters.

Read more: Turkey earthquakes: 'I heard voices from under the rubble,' says Syrian refugee

Escaping the control of President Bashar al-Assad's regime forces since March 2015, the rebel province of Idlib was in 2016 controlled by the ‘Army of Conquest", a coalition of jihadist groups and Islamist rebels, including Al-Nusra Front. The province then suffered massive and almost daily strikes from the Syrian regime and its Russian ally.

We lived in a neighborhood far from any militant or extremist groups. A missile fell on our house. We escaped from the rubble.

[Since then], I have had a back and head injury. I have shrapnel in my head and behind my eyes. The scars are visible. I also have 37 shards in my back.

We are middle class. That means if you do not work, you do not eat.

[To leave Syria], we had to borrow money from our relatives. We entered Turkey illegally.

Since then, we have not stopped working. Before the earthquake, my mother knitted woolen clothes. My father worked in the olive groves and vineyards. My little brother worked in a bakery after school. We got by. We were able to open a clothing store the earthquakes destroyed it.

Today, we do not care about money but we are looking for physical and psychological security. We just want some rest, to be able to lay our heads on a pillow, sleep and rest."

Read more: Syria-Turkey earthquake: How fraudsters try to steal donations and what to look out for


More articles