Syrians find safety for Eid al-Adha holiday in Iraq

Syrians find safety for Eid al-Adha holiday in Iraq

KAWERGOSK , Iraq - Shaqlawa Mohammed Rashid sits at the entrance of a white tent in a refugee camp in northern Iraq, reflecting on what will be her first Eid al-Adha holiday outside Syria.

The 16-year-old girl smiles at her mother Barshan, who sits next to her on a dusty carpet with a cloth covering half her face to shield it from the sun and dust, and whispers comfortingly: "Our situation here is temporary."

They are two of almost 14,000 Syrian Kurds in the Kawergosk refugee camp who will be spending Eid al-Adha - the Feast of Sacrifice, which is the biggest Muslim holiday of the year - away from their home country.

But while they are far from their homes, the refugees have escaped the brutal Syrian civil war and found safety in the camp near Arbil, the capital of Iraq's autonomous Kurdistan region.

"We came from Mazzeh in Damascus. We left it because of the situation there ... where we could not go to school or go out of our houses" because of the "threat of being slaughtered or killed or kidnapped," Shaqlawa says.

"This is our first Eid outside Syria. In the past, we used to prepare sweets and visit each other. I used to buy new clothes and go out with my friends" to amusements parks or restaurants.

But that all changed due to the deadly violence of the civil war between President Bashar al-Assad's forces and rebels seeking his overthrow.

Shaqlawa says that while she spent last Eid al-Adha in Damascus, "we would not go out of the house back then."

"The situation here is ... better because there is safety."

The Kawergosk camp was established in August as tens of thousands of refugees, most of them Syrian Kurds, flooded into northern Iraq, leaving aid agencies scrambling for critical infrastructure and supplies.

Fighting between jihadists and Syrian Kurdish forces helped drive the exodus, and there are now more than 185,000 Syrian refugees in the three-province Kurdistan region of Iraq, according to the United Nations.

Near Shaqlawa's tent, Naras Qassem, also 16, is busy washing clothes in a large metal pot.

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