Saturday, September 20, 2014
Kurds flee in the thousands to Turkey after ISIS captured area around
Fleeing Kurds at the Turkish border. (Photo AA).
Turkish authorities opened the border with Syria on Sept. 19, allowing hundreds of Kurds fleeing from brutal attacks by the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) to cross into Turkey.
“We will take in our brothers fleeing to Anatolia from Syria or any other place, without any ethnic or sectarian discrimination,” Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu said during a visit to Azerbaijan after the government was forced to act by refugees streaming to the border and locals in Turkey converging on the area, demanding that their ethnic kin be permitted to cross.
He said he personally ordered the borders opened for the refugees who had gathered along the wire fences separating the two countries since Sept. 16, amid escalating clashes. “The entries have started now,” Davutoğlu said at the press conference.
The measure came hours after tension between security forces and locals, who reacted against officials that kept Syrian refugees waiting at the border in the southeastern village of Dikmetaş. Turkish police and troops resorted to tear gas and water cannon to disperse the protestors, who had massed near the border. A woman was injured after stepping on a land mine that triggered an explosion, Doğan News Agency reported.
Live television footage showed Syrian Kurds, mostly women and children, crossing the border into Turkey under tight security. Sounds of gunfire and mortar explosion were still heard in Dikmetaş, a sign of the ongoing clashes, reports said.
Exhausted Syrians passing the border were offered water and food by the troops, as Davutoğlu said Turkey’s disaster agency AFAD had been instructed to provide assistance.
Thousands of Syrian Kurds fled their homes after ISIL’s latest offensive in Kobane, one of the three cantons of Rojava. Watch groups said the jihadists had attacked and seized 21 villages using heavy weaponry.
“We have taken in 4,000 brothers. The number might increase. Their needs will be met. This is a humanitarian mission, a historic mission,” Davutoğlu said. Doğan News Agency put the number of Syrians who crossed the border at 5,000, a figure likely to increase. Activists reported that ISIL was committing massacres and kidnapping women in the newly seized areas.
Weeping refugees told tragic stories of leaving family members behind to guard over their property and of ISIL militants executing their relatives. “God bless the Turkish government. They saved our lives, but what will happen to the rest back in Syria?” an elderly refugee told NTV television.
ISIL has met stiff resistance from the People’s Defense Forces (YPG) of Rojava, but the jihadists have technological superiority over the Kurdish fighters. The capture of Kobane, Syria’s third largest Kurdish town, would give ISIL control of a large strip of Syria’s northern border with Turkey.
The official number of Syrians who have fled to Turkey has exceeded 1.38 million. Of this number over 250,000 live in camps, in mostly urban areas.
Western capitals have upped pressure on Ankara in recent months to protect its porous frontier and stop the transit of foreign fighters swelling the ranks of ISIL jihadists in Iraq and Syria.