In many parts of Syria where displacement is a daily reality of life, the coming of winter represents another layer of difficulty for Syrians. This is particularly the case in Deir ez-Zour which saw large-scale displacement over the course of 2017 due to the heavy fighting between ISIS, the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) and the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). Many displaced Syrians found themselves facing the harsh winds of the region without adequate shelter, tents and protection.
Given these circumstances, the discovery of an abandoned school in the village of Harijiya (northern Deir ez-Zour) was a blessing for a group of Syrians who fled the fighting in the towns of Shamiya, Sabikhan and the surrounding villages along the Euphrates. These villages, located along the Euphrates and near the former ISIS stronghold of Mayadin, saw particularly heavy fighting. Many of the people here lost their homes and belongings to airstrikes, SAA shelling and ISIS militants. The subsequent journey north was no less arduous, with a number of people dying during the long trek north.
The abandoned school building was the only shelter available, given the lack of tents and other lodgings. But even it is far from ideal. Nearly all windows and doors have been destroyed and the building itself bears the marks of fighting that plagued the whole province. The Syrians here are safe from the fighting but are still suffering form cold and hunger.
The histories and families of many of the people who have taken here are deeply tied to their homes and hometowns. Thus, losing their homes and being displaced from their villages have hit many of them hard. Now that they are safe from the immediate dangers, many of them look forward to a day where they can return to their homes. And in the long run, they hope that the violence that befell on Syria will come to an end.