The Syrian government’s assault on a rebel-held province has created one of the worst humanitarian emergencies of a brutal nine-year war.
Nearly a million Syrians have fled toward the border with Turkey over the past three months. Many are living in makeshift tents or in the open.
By Vivian Yee and Hwaida Saad
Feb. 26, 2020
REYHANLI, Turkey — The baby wasn’t moving. Her body had gone hot, then cold. Her father rushed her to a hospital, going on foot when he could not find a car, but it was too late.
At 18 months, Iman Leila had frozen to death.
In the half-finished concrete shell that had been home since they ran for their lives across northwest Syria, the Leila family had spent three weeks enduring nighttime temperatures that barely rose above 20.
“I dream about being warm,” Iman’s father, Ahmad Yassin Leila, said a few days later by phone. “I just want my children to feel warm. I don’t want to lose them to the cold. I don’t want anything except a house with windows that keeps out the cold and the wind.”
Syria’s uprising began in a flare of hope almost exactly nine years ago. Now, amid one of the worst humanitarian emergencies of the war, some of those who chanted for freedom and dignity in 2011 want only to ward off the winter cold.
Already the effective winner of Syria’s civil war, President Bashar al-Assad is closer than ever to retaking Syria’s last rebel-held territory, Idlib Province in northwest Syria, a milestone that will clinch his victory even as it deepens his people’s suffering. Over the past three months, his forces, backed by Russian airstrikes, have intensified their assault on the province, driving nearly a million residents toward the border with Turkey.