Displaced Syrians moving from worn-out tent camps into homes funded by Turkey expressed their joy and relief to have a place of their own as the civil war continues to rage on in the country after more than a decade.
Syrian mother of four Maryam al-Hussein was relieved to have a roof over her head as she moved from a tent camp into a housing complex built with Turkish support.
"When I first heard that we were moving into a house, I couldn't believe it," the 28-year-old widow told Agence-France Presse (AFP) in opposition-held northern Syria.
"I was so happy that I couldn't think of anything other than the move," she said, sitting outside her new concrete home.
The homes built near the Syrian city of al-Bab are the latest in a series of residential projects sponsored by Ankara.
Turkey's goal is to create a safe zone along its border.
Since the beginning of the Syrian civil war in 2011, Turkey has backed moderate opposition groups against the Bashar Assad regime and opened its doors to those who had to flee the country to save their lives. Turkey hosts more Syrian migrants than any other country in the world. The country also leads humanitarian aid efforts for Syrians in Turkey and opposition-controlled areas of northern Syria.
In these regions, the Turkish lira has become the main currency and Ankara has helped set up hospitals, post offices and schools.
Turkish nongovernmental organization (NGO) the Humanitarian Relief Foundation (IHH) said it has supported the construction of more than 18,000 residential units in Syria's north since 2019.
"More than 50,000 people have settled in the houses we have built so far," IHH secretary-general, Durmuş Aydın, said.
Aydın said that twice as many will be sheltered in a total of 24,325 homes due to be completed by April.
The latest housing compound was built near the opposition-held area of Bizaah with the support of Turkey's Disaster and Emergency Management Authority (AFAD), local officials said.
It consists of 300 one-story concrete units with large metal doors and small side windows.
Each unit is made up of two rooms, a kitchen and a bathroom, and is equipped with its own water tank and costs about $2,500 to build, Aydın said.
They will be home to residents of a nearby displacement camp who were transferred there this month.
The complex – which is one of many similar housing projects supported by AFAD – includes a mosque and a school.
A medical center is currently under construction, local officials said.
For Maryam, the move marks a major upgrade from the dilapidated tent camps where she had lived with her father, brother and four children under harsh conditions.
Maryam, whose husband was killed in battles between the opposition and Syrian regime forces, was displaced by war in 2019 and moved from one camp to another seeking refuge.
"In the winter, a house is better, because the rain does not seep in and in the summer it remains cool because stone deflects heat better than tents that turn into furnaces," she said.
Local official Hussein al-Issa, who oversees the resettlement of displaced families, said the Bizaah housing facility was built on land managed by an opposition-affiliated local council with the full cooperation of Turkey.
"These houses are temporary shelters for our displaced brothers," he said.
While many displaced families are grateful to Turkey for helping provide shelter, Mohammad Haj Moussa appeared dissatisfied.
"It's like we are lying to ourselves," the 38-year-old father of four told Agence France-Presse (AFP).
"We want a (permanent) solution. We want to return to our homes," added Haj Moussa, who was displaced by the war five years ago.
Since fleeing his home in the northwestern province of Idlib, Haj Moussa said he had moved from one displacement camp to another.
Nearby, Ahmed Mustafa Katouli said he was grateful to have a concrete roof over his head, but complained the units are too small.
"These houses do not make up for what we have lost," said the father of six, displaced from Aleppo with his wife nearly a decade ago.
"We have lost homes, land and martyrs," he said, adding that after years of surviving in tents, "I am forced to live here."