Erbil, Iraq, an ancient town in the foothills of the Kurdistani Zagros Mountains, seems destined to play pivotal roles in the making of civilization. A historic, strategic trade hub at the Mesopotamian crossroads 5,000 years ago, its town of Debaga now gives food, shelter and refuge to nearly 40,000 war-displaced Iraqis and Syrians.
It was first written about by King Shulgi of Ur, a Mesopotamian city-state, in the third millennium B.C. About 2,000 years later, Alexander the Great conquered Persia through its daunting mountains. Muslims conquered it in the 7th century, but that did not prevent Debaga from remaining an active center for Christianity. Muzaffar al-Din, brother in-law of Salahuddin, made Erbil his capital in the late 12th and early 13th centuries. Erbil shone as a beacon of human interaction, thriving trade, and the beauty of basic respect for the sanctity of life. This small patch of elevated land, poised so unobtrusively between the Persians, Arabs, and Turks has endured lifetimes of glory and defeat. It once boasted opulent wealth and high human welfare, but now it summons all its history to the forefront to offer something even more precious: hope.
Now, in more progressive times, it seems fitting that Erbil is playing a life-saving role again for so many of the destitute and dispossessed of Iraq and Syria.
But the Debaga Camp’s current conditions are stunning.
Erbil has an increasing population of about 1.5 million, of which Debaga accounts for some 20,000. Even so, it has accepted internally displaced people (IDP) from Iraq and Syria, doubling its permanent resident numbers.
The Debaga refugee camp is facing many trials, including overcrowding, health crises, psychological impairments, and shattered families. Water, food and space are all scarce, but war-ravaged people still flood in daily. Medical attention is a dire need, and not only for the exhausted people, young and old, trekking hundreds of miles to reach safety.
“We need everything,” said Kak Abd al-Qaliq, manager of a medical center in Dabaga. *
He said in a May 2015 interview with Middle East Eye that almost all of the medicine had run out. That was well before the Debaga refugee camp population increased almost tenfold from 3,700 people to more than 36,000 between March and October 2016. Three to five families live in a single tent, and those are the lucky ones who have shelter at all. The rapid refugee influx makes supplies increasingly important.
People keep coming to this ancient place of refuge. Zakat Foundation of America is right there in Debaga offering food, water, and shelter. Through your generous donations, you can help save the travel weary and hungry who are fighting to find a place of sanctuary. Whatever you give will have countless benefits, so give generously and let them feel your care.