With help and love: Volunteers who went to Syria to aid those fleeing war

While many other western NGOs and journalists left after October 13, fearing the Syrian regime might take over some area the US was leaving, FBR was going forward.

People sit on belongings at a back of a truck as they flee Ras al Ain in Syria. (photo credit: REUTERS)
People sit on belongings at a back of a truck as they flee Ras al Ain in Syria.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Dave Eubank and his Free Burma Rangers (FBR) have been in the thick of the fighting and chaos that was unleashed by a Turkish invasion of northern Syria on October 9. With 300,000 people now displaced, Eubank and his team have been distributing aid to people fleeing, and providing medical care for the wounded. Supported by other groups, such as Frontier Alliance International (FAI), whose leader Dalton Thomas gave an impassioned plea to help Kurds in Syria at an event in Washington this week, a small group of volunteers have gone into Syria while others are leaving.
Since President Donald Trump decided to withdraw US forces from parts of Syria on October 6, there has been uncertainty as to what comes next. Turkey, backing Syrian rebel groups dubbed the “Free Syrian Army” – which is accused of widespread executions and human rights abuses – has attacked the peaceful areas of northern Syria where Kurds live. Hundreds of thousands of Kurds have no fled, a modern-day ethnic cleansing.
Amid the chaos, the Syrian regime and Russia have sought to step in. The Syrian regime signed a deal with the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces on October 13, and Russia and Turkey signed another deal on October 22. The US even tried to broker a ceasefire on October 17. But there is no ceasefire, Eubank has stated. Instead, the Turkish-backed Syrian rebel groups keep attacking.
“We are doing distribution north of Tel Tamir when we were attacked by the FSA [Free Syrian Army]. We were able to complete the distribution though, and gave bread and water to 120 families,” Eubank wrote on Thursday. The group has provided food and water to people fleeing. “The situation here is complex and so we continue to do what we can to help and love everyone. We came here to help our Kurdish friends who were under attack and have also been able to help others, including some Syrian Army soldiers. We hope that by helping impartially, we are able to be an example of Jesus’s love,” he writes.
Eubank and his team are deeply devoted to their Christian faith, and have helped in other dangerous situations throughout the war against ISIS. In the spring they were near Baghouz, helping provide water to families fleeing an ISIS-held area. They also played a role in northern Iraq’s Kurdistan region and the battle for Mosul.
THE FBR has been in Syria as fighting grew throughout October. While many other Western NGOs and journalists left after October 13, fearing the Syrian regime might take over some area the US was leaving, FBR was going forward. They have a good relationship with the Syrian Democratic Forces and they have played a key role in other humanitarian work, such as building playgrounds in Raqqa. On October 27 Eubank ad his team arrived at Tel Tamir hospital, not far from the frontline, where numerous Syrian regime army soldiers were wounded. “We had heard that the Syrian Army was going to come up and help support the Kurds from this Turkish invasion and they did. They had gone up to plug the gaps and got instantly hit by the FSA infantry and Turkish tanks, artillery, and mortars. Many were wounded,” he wrote in an email sent to supporters. He met one badly wounded soldier who was being transferred to Qamishli, a nearby city, for support. “I prayed with him, asking for God’s blessing and healing and that God would be with him. He smiled at me and held my hand as I prayed. I hope that he lives.”
The FBR team has seen ethnic cleansing, Eubank writes, in Syria as Kurds flee their homes in areas subjected to bombardment by Turkey and groups it supports. He also says that the fighting was ongoing this week in areas where there was supposed to be a ceasefire. It shows how much the lack of coverage of this conflict means that there are widespread clashes and yet some of them go unreported. This is because Turkey and Russia seem to be allowing their proxies and allies to fight while feigning a ceasefire. Local people are suffering, especially minority groups in Syria such as Kurds and Christians.
Eubank and FAI’s Thomas are some of the voices which have been brought together by this conflict in Syria, and a desire to see the suffering stop. “For far too long the international community has stood aside and watched Kurds divided, extorted, persecuted and butchered in a continuum of suffering. It’s time we engage and stand with Kurds in Syria, Iraq, Iran and Turkey,” Thomas wrote on social media.
Both the FAI and FBR have played a key role in helping people on different sides in Syria and Iraq, however, both appear shocked by the level of abandonment of eastern Syria and the tragic displacement of hundreds of thousands there in recent weeks.