Life in ruins: ancient sites shelter displaced Syrians | Gallery
Mohamad Othman remembers taking school trips to ancient archaeological sites in Syria, never imagining that one of them would become his home.
The 30-year-old and his family have been living in a tent amid ancient ruins in Sarjableh near the Turkish border since they fled for their lives around two and a half years ago in a government offensive in northwestern Syria.
Stones collected from the site are anchored in their tent, one of a few dozen that shelter families who fled their homes during the Syrian 10-year war.
Their clothes are drying on two ropes stretched between the tent and an ancient stone portico. Their children climb the rocks and swing on the walls of this unusual, if not dangerous, playground.
âIn the summer we face the scorpions and the snakes and the dust, and all the pressures of life, and in the winter the cold. The situation is desperate. There are no health services, âsaid Othman.
A father of four, he struggles to earn an income, depending on seasonal jobs such as picking olives and any other work he can get. When there is no work, he is forced to go into debt to meet basic needs. Her children do not go to school.
âWhen the last bombing and the last attack started, we left to come here,â Othman said. “We couldn’t find a place to shelter, so we lived here among the ruins.”
Sarjableh, an Early Christian settlement with ruins dating back to the 5th century, has been popular with the displaced as they don’t have to pay to stay there, unlike other areas where landowners charge rent.
âEveryone here had land that we cultivated and we had a livelihood in our villages and didn’t need anyone. But our fate was to be moved, âOthman said.
“We did not leave our land of our own free will to come to an area that has been uninhabited for thousands of years.”
Not far from Sarjableh, in another corner of Idlib province to the northwest, the former Babisqa site also shelters the bombed people from their homes.
In an earlier phase of the war, the rebels used the site as a base, operating from ancient caves carved into the rock where cables can still be seen being installed by opposition fighters.
Cattle ranchers took their sheep and goats with them when they fled to rebel-held areas of territory now under Syrian government control. Today, sheep and goats feed among ancient stones, poultry peck on the ground.