‘We are in need of a handful of water; if you cannot do anything else, at least send us a handful of water’

‘We are in need of a handful of water; if you cannot do anything else, at least send us a handful of water’
After Diyarbakır’s burning hot days, I am on a long-awaited vacation with my children. Though, my plan was to pass these days without my phone and computer, our holiday soured as ISIS began to slaughter people a few days after we began our vacation, and as the photographs of hungry and thirsty Yazidis on the mountains began to circulate.

Seeing our children cry, we first could not return all together by ending our vacation, so my husband left for home alone. In Diyarbakır, they immediately established a commission of 8 people representing the Bar, Human Rights Association, Diyarbakır Chamber of Trade and Industry, Federation of East and Southeast Businessmen Associations, Diyarbakır Association of Industrialists and Businessmen, Confederation of Public Workers’ Union, Union of Chambers of Turkish Engineers and Architects, and Medical Chamber. The commission representatives then left to visit Zaxo, first, and then Duhok.
Let’s listen to the rest of the story from Burç Baysal, President of the Diyarbakır Association of Industrialists and Businessmen:
“They are living a real human tragedy here. People are hungry and thirsty, walking to an unknown future. Those who do not have a passport are not allowed to pass the Turkish border. The instance that mostly impressed me was as follows: We made a joint meeting of civil society organizations from Amed and South Kurdistan in Duhok, at the Directorate of Health. One of the representatives of the civil society organizations participating in the meeting, a female lawyer, told us while crying loudly, that her sister called a short while ago and told her that ISIS had killed her brother and children in front of her eyes, that ISIS took her brother’s wife, and that her sister told her, ‘Do not worry sister, I carry a knife with me. They will not be able to touch me. If they try to touch me, I will kill myself before they do.’ We were all frozen. Instead of surrendering to ISIS members, Yazici women are killing themselves.”
Up until now, around 250 thousand people escaping ISIS have arrived in Zaxo and Duhok. Most of them are Yazidi, but there are also small numbers of Chaldeans and Turkmens amongst them. Some of those people are staying in the camps built by the Kurdistan Regional Government, while thousands of others are sleeping on the streets. On the Turkish side of the border, there are camps built by the Silopi Municipality and AFAD. Since only Yazidis who have passports can pass the Turkish border, the flow of people coming to Turkey is far more less. It is said that around 2 or 3 thousand people have arrived here.
It is reported that the most important needs in camps on the other side of the border are medicine and doctors. Therefore, in order to solve that problem, a civil society commission left for Ankara today to make a meeting with the Minister of Health and the Minister of Interior.
As of today, official numbers demonstrate that there are 165-200 Yazidis in the camp opened by the Silopi Municipality and AFAD; 1000 Yazidis in the camp site opened by the Silopi Municipality, at the site spared for earthquake houses; 600-700 Yazidis staying in the houses of local people; and 400 Yazidis in the camp site being built by the Cizre Municipality, within the industrial zone.
Though the Municipalities and civil society organizations in the region try to do their best, it seems like this tragedy is more severe than we expected. 500 thousand Yazidis and Chaldeans are being displaced, on barefoot, hungry, and thirsty…
While grieving for the situation of Yazidis and taking care of the children at the same time, I also talk on the phone all the time with those in Silopi, Zaho, and Duhok and try to support and publicize the aid campaigns for the victims.
One of the persons I am frequently in contact with is Yaşar Kaygısız, an activist who has been struggling for minority and human rights for a long time and who is also the founder of the Association of Asyrians, Chaldeans, and Aramis.
Since the start of the massacre, Kaygısız is in the region and updates me every hour. I heard from Yaşar that during the first days, Yazidis who tried to enter Turkey illegally were sent back by the gendarmerie; in other words they were sent to death. And also that human trafficking has begun in the region, and there are human traffickers who ask for 400-5000 dollars to help people pass the border…
Today, during his last call, Yaşar first said: “Our humanity is dead; we are alone by only ourselves. There is a real human tragedy here.”
I ask Yaşar what are the urgent needs. He replies, “Water and ice are our most urgent needs. Besides that, sanitary pads, refrigerators, and air conditioners, since the region is very hot. We also need clean clothes, especially for women and children, and cleaning materials. It is hot, very hot. Silopi is 45 degrees; we need cold water. Send us these supplies. We do not have the money to pay for transportation; please pay for the transportation and send the materials. Write on them either Silopi Municipality or our name. We will ensure they reach the hands of the victims.”She also adds: “We are in need of even a handful of water, if you cannot do anything else, at least send us a handful of water.”
While the voice of Yaşar saying a handful of water echoes in my ears, my son Bawer stops playing, comes to me, and asks for cold water. Watching my son drinking his cold water, I think of Yazidi children whose lips are worn, as they cannot drink this water. Damn, damn this world…
Nurcan Baysal
August 13, 2014

*As published in T24 on 13.08.2014