National Geographic : 2015 Mar
58 national geographic • March 2015 0mi 10 0km 10 Medit. Sea ATATÜRK DAM Paul Salopek’s walk route Border crossing Populated area with refugee presence Area of conflict and displacement Syrian refugee camp AMANOSMOUNTAINSAMANOSMOUNTAINS Karakuş Oylum Höyük To Siverek TURKEY SYRIA Şanlıurfa Suruç Mürşitpınar Ayn al Arab (Kobane) Nizip Birecik Mezraa Kilis Nizip 1 Kilis 1 Kilis 2 Nizip 2 Aleppo Antakya Gaziantep Atatürk Barajı Eu phrates Completed AREA ENLARGED (right) Planned route In the second year of the Out of Eden Walk, Paul Salopek’s route meanders through one of the largest forced migrations in the world: almost 12 million people displaced in the Middle East by the four-year-long civil war in Syria, which has spilled over into Iraq. A Walk Into Hardship was here that humankind first settled down, founded cities, invented the idea of a fixed home. Yet for months I had been stumbling across a vast panorama of mass homelessness. I asked Engin what had befallen the pioneering urban dwellers at Oylum once their citadel had been breached and torched by some invader 3,800 years ago. He was unsure. “ They went back into the country- side,” he said. He placed a palm on the frail wall of his pit. “ They forgot cities. They got poorer.” And, doubtless, some regrouped. Perhaps they even conquered their conquerors. Forced migra- tion begets empire. The United Nations calculates that by the end of 2013, more than 51 million people world- wide were displaced because of warfare, violence, and persecution. More than half were women and children. Among Syrian refugees in Turkey, the proportion of women and children zooms to 75 percent. The men stay behind to fight or protect property. The women and children become des- titute wanderers. Journalists rarely follow these women’s fates into urban slums, crowded camps, plastic lean-tos pegged in watermelon fields. Into brothels. Their woes are not telegenic. There are few dramatic explosions. There are no flags or front lines to be contested by the dictator Bashar al Assad, by the countless rebels. Syria’s women suffer their wars alone, in silence, in alien lands. “It is a huge hidden issue,” said Elif Gündüzyeli, a social worker with Support to Life, a Turkish relief organization. “And these women’s vulner- ability is transforming society.” In secular Turkey a tidal wave of unaccompa- nied Syrian women is reviving banned Islamic traditions such as polygamy. In Jordan refugee families marry off daughters as young as 13, hoping to leverage them out of camps, off the streets, out of poverty. “Nobody protects you,” said Mona (not her To experience National Geographic Fellow Paul Salopek’s walk, visit nationalgeographic.com/ edenwalk. Follow on Twitter: @outofedenwalk. Read John Stanmeyer’s account of the Kurds crossing into Turkey at ngm.com/exodus.