Syrians in Turkey return home in black body bags

Syrians in Turkey return home in black body bags
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Many Syrians who have sought refuge in Turkey are returning to their country for their funerals. Those who survived are no better off

Many refugees who fled Syria for Turkey are now returning to their countries in body bags after massive earthquakes killed more than 11,000 people in both countries on Monday.

The bodies of 85 Syrian refugees who fled airstrikes and collapsed buildings in their homeland to live safely in Turkey during the civil war were recovered from the rubble of their new homes on the first day after the earthquake and repatriated through the Bab al-Hawa border crossing between the two countries, The New York Times reported. Others followed the next day.

On Tuesday evening, Ahmad Yousef, who lives in the Syrian town of Sarmada on the border, waited with his aunt at the border crossing to receive the body of a cousin's 13-year-old daughter. Her body had been recovered that day from the rubble of her home in Turkey. Her two parents and a brother were still lying under the rubble.

The family had fled their small village in Syria's Hama province in 2013 as shelling and airstrikes increased. Now the girl, who probably could not even remember the Syria she had fled, was returning.

Those who survived fared no better.

42-year-old Ridwan Gurre spent seven years building a new home in the multiethnic city of Diyarbakir in southeastern Turkey, where he moved with his family because of the region's relative safety.

Now it's gone.

Gurre was forced to spend the last two nights with his wife and two sons on the turquoise carpet of the city's old Grand Mosque.

"When we were at war, we knew it was time to take shelter when the planes flew overhead," he said. "When the earthquake came at such an unexpected hour, we did not know what would happen next

Aleppo native Mercan al Ahmad recalled life in Syria where she struggled to find food. Now she can barely sleep again.

"We escaped death in Syria, and now we were struck by an earthquake in Turkey," said the 17-year-old.

"We can't sleep. We are scared. We live in fear of another strong aftershock."

She spends the restless nights and days worrying about her future and her relatives back in Aleppo -- one of the provinces suffering extensive damage in Syria.

"We have relatives in Aleppo. There are many casualties, many houses collapsed," she said. "We heard some of them belong to our relatives."