For fam­i­lies flee­ing IS, a ways­ta­tion in Aleppo

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

Syr­ian es­capees from the Is­lamic State group lan­guished for hours on the siz­zling con­crete pave­ments at Aleppo’s main bus sta­tion, their faces gaunt and eyes rimmed by dark cir­cles. Just six months ago, the Ra­mussa sta­tion was the main tran­sit point for thou­sands of peo­ple bussed out of sec­ond city Aleppo as part of a land­mark evac­u­a­tion deal. Now, buses are start­ing to trickle through again-this time car­ry­ing trau­ma­tized fam­i­lies flee­ing IS’s dwin­dling ter­ri­tory to gov­ern­ment-held zones in the rest of the coun­try. “It’s a mir­a­cle that we’re here,” said Umm Ham­moud, 45, who fled IS’s bas­tion city Raqa with her 10 chil­dren aboard a pickup truck. She spoke to AFP while wait­ing for a bus to take her to Syria’s third city Homs, where she will be re­united with long-lost rel­a­tives.

Be­fore Syria’s civil war started in 2011, it took Umm Ham­moud just two hours to make the 200-kilo­me­tre west­ward bus trip from her na­tive Raqa to Aleppo. This time, it took her and her fam­ily a month. “We fled Raqa at the be­gin­ning of Ra­madan (the Mus­lim holy month that be­gan in late May) af­ter each pay­ing 150,000 Syr­ian pounds,” or around $300, Umm Ham­moud said. She re­counted a ter­ri­fy­ing jour­ney de­layed by heavy air strikes on ji­hadist-held vil­lages and dif­fi­culty ne­go­ti­at­ing with smug­glers. “When we got here, we could barely believe that we sur­vived,” she said as she strug­gled to soothe her wail­ing six-month-old in the scorch­ing heat.

Umm Ham­moud and her fam­ily skirted land­mines, air strikes, and an IS pa­trol unit track­ing down any­one try­ing to flee the city. But when they reached Aleppo, they did not find the bustling com­mer­cial me­trop­o­lis they had once known. — AFP

ALEPPO: Dis­placed Syr­i­ans who fled with their fam­i­lies Is­lamic State con­trolled ar­eas in Raqa, Deir Ezzor and Mayadeen gather at Aleppo’s bus sta­tion of Ra­mussa. —AFP

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