Voluntary undertakers of Jandaris | News about earthquakes

Volunteers came from all over Jandaris, Syria to help bury the hundreds of dead after the earthquake.

Jandaris, Syria – Hundreds of men were moving through an open field in Jandaris, in northwestern Syria. They seemed to be working hard, lifting, calling to each other and carrying things around.

Upon closer inspection, the grim reality was revealed: the field was a cemetery that had not been used much before the devastating earthquakes that struck southern Turkey and northwestern Syria on February 6.

Now it has become the site of mass graves, long trenches dug for the hundreds of people who died in and after the earthquakes.

Men raced back and forth, unloading bodies wrapped in shrouds or body bags from trucks and handing them off to others who dug trenches big enough to hold 100 to 130 people a day.

Jihad al-Ibrahimi pauses work at the cemetery
Al-Ibrahimi and his family were already internally displaced, so the earthquakes did not damage their tents [Ali Haj Suleiman/Al Jazeera]

Some bodies had to be lifted and carried by two men. Many others were tiny, clutched in the arms of men with shock written on their faces as they carried babies to the trenches.

Jihad Ahmed al-Ibrahimi, 21, collected cement blocks and brought them to be used to line trenches. The bodies are placed on top of the blocks and then marble slabs are placed over the bodies before the trenches are filled.

He came every day to volunteer and help with burials.

Men hand over the wrapped bodies of babies or small children for burial in a mass grave
They hand over the bodies to the volunteers standing in the trench [Ali Haj Suleiman/Al Jazeera]

“I live in the camps in Aazaz, me and my family are displaced,” he told Al Jazeera, adding that since he and his family were already living in tents, they did not suffer much damage from the earthquake.

“But to be honest, we were scared, it was scary. Then we started to think how much more terrible it would be for people living in cities. And we began to worry about our people in the cities because we knew that there would be the greatest damage.

“We heard that the worst damage was in Jandaris, so myself and about 30 or 40 other men come here every morning to volunteer and help the people here bury their dead here in this cemetery.”

The trenches are lined with cubes, and marble slabs are laid over the body [Ali Haj Suleiman/Al Jazeera]

Al-Ibrahimi said people used their own cars to travel the 40 km (25 miles) to Jandaris in the morning and back to Aazaz at night, no easy task in a region where 12 years of war have decimated infrastructure and resources, a situation shaken by earthquakes. only worsened.

The names of dead people are documented, as far as possible, and small markers are placed next to the graves showing the names of those buried there.

“We bury the bodies and perform the funeral for the dead,” al-Ibrahimi said. “We’re not here to get paid or anything, we’re doing this for God.

“I am very grateful that most of my family and closest ones, we were all already displaced and living in tent camps. But we are here, doing this work because these people who died here are also our families, that’s what made us come here to help.”

gravediggers filling up a trench
Volunteer gravediggers begin to fill the mass grave [Ali Haj Suleiman/Al Jazeera]

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