Iraq News

Syrians refugees in Turkey cross border to celebrate Eid al-Fitr

By Waleed Abu al-Khair in Cairo


Residents of Kobani, which was liberated from the 'Islamic State of Iraq and Syria' in 2015, perform Eid prayers at the city's Haj Khalid Mosque. [Photo courtesy of Saleh Mohammed]

More than 100,000 Syrian refugees poured across the border from Turkey at the weekend to celebrate Eid al-Fitr at home with their families in liberated areas.

Despite the ongoing battle against the "Islamic State of Iraq and Syria" (ISIS), Syrians celebrated Eid in all liberated areas, observing religious and social customs as they had done before the group's incursion.

Residents of Kobani and its surrounding countryside celebrated Eid al-Fitr joyfully this year, local merchant Mahmoud Sulaiman, 40, told Diyaruna.

Despite the strain of the war against ISIS, decorations adorned the streets, he said, and the city's market teemed with vendors selling sweets and toys.

Kobani is the main base of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), and many city residents fight on the front lines.

Al-Raqa native Mustafa Jam, 35, who has lived in Turkey for close to two years, told Diyaruna he had returned to Syria to spend the Eid holiday with relatives and friends who are still in the city of Ain Issa.

He is thinking of remaining in Syria, he said, as the city of al-Raqa is on the verge of being liberated from ISIS, with SDF fighters now surrounding it from all sides.

Record number of returnees

Amjad Shahrour, who works at Bab al-Hawa crossing on the Syria-Turkey border, said more than 130,000 Syrians crossed into Syria through Bab al-Hawa and Bab al-Salam to spend Eid al-Fitr in Syria.

"This is the largest number of border crossers recorded since it became operational, as usually the large numbers are of those leaving, not the opposite," he told Diyaruna.

This caused a bottleneck at the border, he said, and forced some seeking entry to Syria to spend two or three nights in the vicinity of the crossing before they were able to pass through.

"However, the joy of returning for the Eid overshadowed everything," he said.

Shahrour attributed the high number of returnees to improved security conditions in some areas, and noted that the areas controlled by ISIS have contracted significantly.

For many returning refugees, the stay in Syria will be temporary, however.

"For some, this is a trial period for a permanent return," Shahrour said, based on his conversations with Syrian returnees.

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