Robin Yassin-Kassab – National – Wednesday, 15 January 2014 (originally published 13 Jan)
Our car turns through the crowded alleyways of single-story breezeblock houses; it is foggy with coal smoke on this icy morning. This is the poorest quarter of Reyhanli, a Turkish town just across the Syrian border, and it’s crammed with Syrian refugees.
The woman whose story I’ve come to hear puts on a niqab when the camera comes out. And she prefers to be nameless, because she fears for her two married daughters still living in regime-controlled territory. She lives in an empty, unheated house. Her son sits with us, and her small daughter shivers under a blanket. The woman is in early middle age but looks older. Her face is long, worn and haggard, her voice pain-strained and sharp.
Her husband worked with the military security for 19 years but retired early when he needed a spinal operation. After that, he opened a roast chicken restaurant in his neighborhood, Bayada, in Homs. The family lived what his wife describes as a working-class life “of an acceptable standard”. They had six children. Bayada comprised both Sunni and Alawi families, “and the relationship between us was very good, even if the state favored Alawis. We drank mate together. There was no problem . . . ”