Civilian-led initiative set up in Idlib to support East Ghouta displaced


Civilians and rebel fighters were recently evacuated from East Ghouta by the Syrian Regime to northern Syria. They were welcomed warmly by some local residents in Idlib.

A civilian-led initiative has been set up in the city of Idlib and its surrounding countryside to provide support for the displaced civilians who have arrived from East Ghouta.

An estimated 15,000 people were evacuated from the Eastern Ghouta towns of Arbin, Zomalka, Jobar and Harasta, following a surrender deal made between the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) and the rebel groups Faylaq al-Rahman and Ahrar al-Sham at the end of March. The deal to evacuate the East Ghouta population to Idlib, northern Syria, came after months of heavy shelling, besiegement and military advancements by the SAA and their allies.

The initiative has set up a task force to provide the new arrivals with free food, medicine and financial assistance to help them assimilate into the local society.

“The people of Ghouta deserve [our support] because they left their homes and their land after a seven year siege,” said one Idlib resident. “They deserve all the best. People should stand with them and support them, not only by providing blankets, we should help them with everything.”

In addition to the assistance that displaced people have been receiving on arrival in Idlib, a group of young activists have been locating secure housing for many of the displaced people. However, the large number of those arriving mean it is inevitable that some of the families will end up living in displacement camps located across Idlib’s countryside.

Idlib province has effectively been transformed into a refugee camp, as thousands of evacuated civilians and fighters, including from eastern Aleppo in late 2016, have been resettled there. An estimated four million people are now living in the Greater Idlib area, including 170,000 people living in displacement camps in nine different regions, many of whom living in extremely harsh conditions. Very little aid has been able to reach the numerous displacement camps in the province as a result of a lack of funding for aid organisations and security issues in and around the camps.