“I never thought I wouldn’t be going back to that house,” she said, tearing up. “Sometimes we ask God, ‘When will this be over?’”
From some of the camps, the displaced can see Turkey, green and orderly beyond the border fence. On the Turkish side of the Reyhanli crossing, olive trees grow in tidy rows. Nothing sleeps beneath them but a stray dog.
But Turkey already hosts more than three million Syrian refugees, and it refuses to accept any more.
That does not stop Khadija Mohsen Shaker, 34, from hoping.
She and one of her four sons crossed several days ago to Reyhanli, also for medical care — he is being treated for kidney problems. But soon they will have to return to their tent in Idlib, where her elderly parents and two other children are living.
“I wish I could live in Syria the way people live here,” she said. “There, there’s fear everywhere. We’re surrounded by fear.”
Ms. Shaker, a widow who works as a farmhand, was among the last to leave the city of Maarat al Noaman after pro-government forces attacked in January, fleeing on foot with her family in one panicked hour. Once near the border, they slept for 10 days under an olive tree draped with a tarp until someone gave them his tent.
In the tent, their toilet is a bucket, she said. There is no school. They spend each day praying, trying to soothe the children — one cries from cold, another from hunger — and waiting for aid groups to deliver food. Every day, one son goes to a nearby mountain to collect firewood. But it is still so cold that they cannot sleep.