By Chris Niles
ERBIL, Iraq, 20 October 2013 —The Muslim holiday of Eid is traditionally a time for family gatherings, feasting and celebration, one that has extra significance for children.
On Tuesday morning, the first day of the four-day holiday last week, Kawergosk refugee camp is quiet. At home, before the conflict, extended families would have gathered for communal meals and entertainment, and children would have been lavished with treats.
The contrast in Kawergosk is stark. The only toys are kites, mostly improvised out of plastic bags. Some children have ice creams.
“Here there is nothing, no sweets. No food. No money. In Syria we used to get big bags of sweet and our parents used to give us money. We’d buy clothes and we’d buy fireworks,” said Mohammed, 14.
That was before the conflict. When families could travel freely and had money to spend.
“We used to have fun, buy sweets and go on picnics. It was really beautiful. We used to go to the fairground and we used to have family visiting us, but these last two years it hasn’t been a beautiful Eid. The situation changed, and no one was visiting us any more,” Naras, 16, said.
In Kawergosk at least they are safe. But the only sign of feasting is the women who are seated outside their tents, methodically rolling out bread dough and cooking it on open stoves. The smell of fresh bread fills the air.
Kawergosk camp, which was set up to accommodate some of the more than 63,000 refugees who have crossed the border from Syria since mid-August, is about two months old. For many young children, the reality of their situation is becoming ever more apparent.
“When I came to Kurdistan I was so happy. But we came to tents. I was so sad we did not come to proper homes,” said Safa, 12.
Safa wishes she could visit her relatives as she did in the past. Here, there is no one to visit them.
“I want to deliver my message to all the children of the world. Happy Eid. I hope you thank god for this grace you have in your homes and countries. Thanks a lot, and don’t forget us,” she says.