In an attempt to escape a relentless massacre campaign by President Bashar al-Assad’s regime in their country, dozens of Syrians have left home to seek shelter in refugee camps close to the Turkish-Syrian border.
Refugees are mostly traveling from Aleppo, Syria’s largest city, which Assad’s military forces have been shelling over the past couple of days. Correspondents from the Zaman daily joined a group of Syrian refugees on their hazardous journey to Turkey.
We were accompanied to the starting point by a group of guides and members of the Free Syria Army (FSA), an old house occupied by a large number of Syrians who had been waiting several days to set out for Turkey. Among them were old women and children. Almost every one of them had a heartbreaking story. Many have lost family members or close relatives to Assad’s forces and were eager to leave Aleppo as soon as possible, fearing a bloody campaign may be launched against them by the Syrian president. They said Assad’s forces take people into custody arbitrarily and that most detainees are never returned. “We heard that some of them were killed under heavy torture,” said one such refugee. “They also take into custody those who ask about the whereabouts of the detainees. No one can do anything because they are afraid.” When we set out, the guides said we had around 60 kilometers to cover. The route was fraught with danger, and the driver of the bus that carried us looked extremely wary and solemn. The journey lasted a few hours, filled with discomfort for most passengers as the vehicle was jam-packed.
The driver turned off the headlights of the bus as we approached the Turkish border. After traveling this way for a few kilometers, he eventually shut off the engine and told the passengers that he would no longer be able to drive. We got off the bus, along with the other passengers, and started walking under the full moon to reach the Turkish border. After several hours, we finally saw the tower of the Turkish border outpost. Our photojournalist wanted to take photos of some of the refugees, but the refugees did not agree. They said they were afraid it would mean trouble for them if their photographs were published.
The number of Syrians who have fled the violence in their country and sought refuge in Turkey has reached 43,000, according to the Prime Ministry’s Disaster and Emergency Management Directorate (AFAD). Turkey established tent cities in its southern provinces to provide accommodation for the Syrians.
30 July 2012 / SERKAN SAĞLAM, IDLIB