ACTNews, HATAY - The road upon which we drove ascended and narrowed down as we were leaving the urban area behind. Thick haze covered half of the road, leaving visibility to no more than 10 meters. Meanwhile, the temperature outside the dewy car windows reached nine degree Celsius.
On Wednesday (28/2) morning, we, SOS for Syria XIV team, drove away from the city of Antakya to a village located very close to the Syrian border.
The village is called Hacipasa, located at the foot of a mountain, around ninety minutes trip from Antakya. Because of the proximity to the Syrian border, Hacipasa becomes the destination of hundreds of Syrian refugees. We found out that, in this small village, the number of the refugee families has exceeded the number of the local Hacipasan families.
"Around 550 refugee families live in Hacipasa. The number of Syrian families moving to Hacipasa after the war has reached 300 families. They rent houses here and intermingle with the local villagers. They cultivate the land, becoming farmers in such limited condition," said Mohammed, an ACT partner accompanying us during the aid distribution in Hacipasa.
After getting out of the thick fog, we turned off the car in front of a store house. It was quiet when we got there.
In the store house, around 300 packages consisting of food items were prepared. They are comprised of rice, sugar, wheat, cheese, oil, lentils, bread flour and other food items. On that day, we came to Hacipasa bringing special gifts for hundreds of Syrian refugee families seeking shelter in the village.
"Look at the hill over there, it's a part of Syria. The Syrians in Hacipasa walked until the last village across the border, called Azmarin. From Azmarin, Syria, they cross the border by a boat through the river to Hacipasa. They will probably stay here until the war ends," explained Mohammed, pointing at the green hill across Hacipasa.
There was utter silence in Hacipasa as we arrived there early in the morning, around 10 A.M. Early in the morning, Mohammed said, the majority of the Syrian refugees have gone to the farms.
"What else could they do for a living? In Hacipasa, the Syrians rent some patch of land to cultivate. From their earnings, they can buy wheat, bread or rice," explained Mohammed.
The local volunteers then started their job. Before the noon prayer, a number of volunteers called the villagers to gather in the store house near the office of the Hacipasa village chief. Wearing muddy boots, even some of them were driving tractors, the Syrians gathered. They stood in line as the distribution of the food aid began.
For a year, no aid had come
One after another, the 300 food packages were distributed. The ACT logo was printed on the packaging, Indonesian flags with Terima Kasih Indonesia written on them were put on many places. We introduced Indonesia and the Red and White flag to Syrian refugees on the border.
"Indonesia's humanitarian spirit, Alhamdulillah, has reached Hacipasa, putting smiles on the faces of Syrian refugees in the bordering area," said Rahadiansyah, the coordinator of SOS for Syria XIV team.
While waiting in line, every refugee was required to show his identification. We knew that they came from Idlib, Aleppo, Homs, Hama, Latakia and small number of them came from Ghouta.
While finishing the distribution, we found a sad fact: for a year, no humanitarian aid has reached Hacipasa. The village head of Hacipasa, Ahmed*, said that Hacipasa is almost forgotten.
"This place is a humanitarian border. The Turkish government has opened the border for the Syrian refugees here. However, there's no humanitarian aid entering this area. You (he pointed at us) Indonesians are the first to reach this village," said Ahmed.
As the packages were running out, we distributed the last of the packages in a different way: we visited no less than ten houses of the Syrian refugees. They happily expressed their gratitude and best wishes for Indonesia as they received the food packages.
"May Allah bestow Indonesia with goodness. Thank you, we appreciate all your efforts to get here. May we be able to meet again in Syria, Insha Allah," said Laila, a middle-aged woman from Homs, showing her smile and prayer for us, for Indonesia.