Wednesday 28 November 2012
Help in the field in Iraq KurdistanFrom left to right: Abdullah's aunt Nayima, 30, and her three-year-old son Azadin, SRT member Rebecca Novell (UK), Abdullah, 28, Mohammad, 15, all at Abdullah's temporary home he built at Domiz refugee camp, November 2012.
One night in October 2010, 40 soldiers came to take Abdullah from his home in Qamishli, Syria. His time as an English language student at University of Aleppo was over. Instead, he was forced to join the Syrian Army to fight for President Bashar al-Assad. Two years later, he escaped among the escalating violence between government troops and rebel fighters and is now living as a deserter at Domiz refugee camp in Iraq Kurdistan. He is also proving to be invaluable to ShelterBox as its guide and translator.
With tens of thousands of people fleeing Syria's civil war seeking refuge across the border in Iraq Kurdistan, ShelterBox has been providing Syrian refugee families with winterized shelter at Domiz refugee camp. Abdullah has been assisting response teams in various ways, helping make a difference to families in need.
"We first met Abdullah when we began training workers to set up the first shipment of 200 tents," said ShelterBox Response Team (SRT) member, David Webber (UK). "He approached us asking who we were and what we were doing. I noticed he spoke English well, which is almost impossible to come by here. So I asked him to work for us as our guide and translator. Without him, our work would not have been as quick and efficient - we now have 500 tents set up bringing shelter, warmth and dignity to families."
Abdullah walking through a row of ShelterBox tents set up at Domiz refugee camp, Iraq Kurdistan, November 2012.
Abdullah has been living at the camp since July with his aunt, uncle, nieces and nephews. He deserted the army because he did not want to continue being forced to fight against his own people.
"I had an opportunity to run away. I took some vacation and paid a smuggler $500 to take me across the border from Qamishli. We left in the early hours one morning in June. For four hours I walked and had to pass the guards who were asleep. There was a lot of ducking and waiting. I was so scared but I’m here now and safe.
"I can never return to Syria while Assad rules; my mother, brother, sister and father are still there. I worry about them.
"Meeting David and Rebecca from ShelterBox has been amazing for all of us here. Not only do I have work to provide for my family here, but we are also helping my people who are in desperate need by bringing them what's most important to them at this time - safety and hope. Thank you ShelterBox - you are a great organization, making a real impact on people's lives."