News / Middle East

Increasing Number of Syrians Flee to Turkey

A Turkish soldier stands by as a group of Syrians wait for the authorization to enter Turkey near the Turkish village of Guvecci in Hatay province, Turkey, which borders Syria, June  9, 2011
A Turkish soldier stands by as a group of Syrians wait for the authorization to enter Turkey near the Turkish village of Guvecci in Hatay province, Turkey, which borders Syria, June 9, 2011
TEXT SIZE - +

Hundreds of Syrian refugees have crossed into Turkey to escape the latest upsurge of unrest in Syria.  Turkey is bracing itself for a potential major exodus, as protests against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad escalate. There are growing concerns the destabilization in Syria could spill over into Turkey. Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said Thursday more than 2,500 civilians have entered his country since the unrest in neighboring Syria began in March. The influx prompted Turkish authorities to set up three camps to handle the crisis.

Hundreds of Syrians are continuing to cross into Turkey to escape President Bashar al-Assad's weeks-long crackdown against anti-government protesters.  Some of the refugees are believed to be from the town of Jisr al-Shughour, where 120 security troops were reportedly killed Monday during the anti-government demonstrations.  

The government has issued orders for security forces to hit back, accusing the protesters of being armed bandits.  

With the escalating violence, political scientist Soli Ozel says a major crisis could be looming; 250 refugees fled the conflict last month.

"You are liable to get massive influx of people trying to escape the war zones," Ozel said.

The Iraq crisis saw tens of thousands of people seeking refuge in Turkey, and according to Turkish media reports, facilities for 10,000 refugees are now being prepared.  

There is visa-free travel between Turkey and Syria, and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Wednesday the border would remain open.

Mr. Erdogan said at this point, closing the border is out of question.  He said his government is following the developments in Syria with concern, and urged Damascus to show more tolerance toward its citizens and take concrete steps toward reform as soon as possible.

The Turkish prime minister has pressed President Assad to introduce reforms, but has resisted domestic and international pressure to take a tougher line, saying Damascus should be given time.  

But the escalating crisis has seen Ankara toughening its language towards Damascus.  Diplomatic correspondent for the Turkish daily Milliyet, Semih Idiz, says the government is taking an increasingly more nuanced stance.

"We understand there is still a dialogue between Bashar al-Assad and the prime minister, Tayyip Erdogan.  On the other hand, the Syrian opposition met in Turkey and that could not have gone down very well in Damascus," Idiz said.

One reason behind Ankara reaching out to Syria is that it has a restive Kurdish population, which political scientist Nuray Mert of Istanbul University says has close ties with the Kurdish rebel group, the PKK, which is fighting the Turkish state.

"We know that there are very close links between PKK and Syrian Kurds, and this [is] another threat of destabilization in Turkey because anyway we have huge problems concerning the Kurdish problem," Mert said.

One of the main factors behind the rapprochement between the two countries was President Assad's crackdown against Syrian Kurdish nationalists.  Now, according to diplomatic correspondent Idiz, Ankara fears Mr. Assad may be reaching out to his restive Kurdish population.

"We understand Bashar al-Assad is now trying to co-opt the Kurds.  What happens to them politically and how they interact with northern Iraq and the Kurds in Turkey is of relevance [to] Ankara," Idiz said.

With the Syrian president increasingly isolated and desperate, concerns in Turkey that instability could spread to its territory are growing.

"Many people in the bordering areas in Syria and Turkey have relations, and there is the Alevi and Sunni situation also, [which] plays out in Turkey.  Do not forget Turkey has Alevi population that numbers anything up to 12 million," Idiz said.

Ankara will be hoping the Syrian crisis can be defused by government reforms and negotiations with the Syrian opposition, but as violence increases, observers say that is looking unlikely.

You May Like

Multimedia Anti-Keystone XL Protests Continue

Demonstrators are worried about pipeline's effect on climate change, their traditional way of life, health and safety More

Thailand's Political Power Struggle Continues

Court gave Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra until May 2 to prepare her defense over abuse of power charges but uncertainty remains over election timing More

Malaysia Plane Search Tests Limits of Ocean Mapping Technology

Expert tells VOA existing equipment’s maximum operating depth is around 6 kilometers as operation continues on ocean bed for any trace of MH370 More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Messagei
X
Penelope Poulou
April 22, 2014 5:53 PM
Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Message

Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pro-Russian Separatists Plan 'Federalization Referendum' in Eastern Ukraine

Pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine say they plan to move forward next month with a referendum vote for greater autonomy, despite the Geneva agreement reached with Russia, the U.S. and Ukraine to end the political conflict. VOA's Brian Padden reports from the city of Donetsk in Eastern Ukraine.
Video

Video Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Church

On April 27, two popes - John the XXIII and John Paul II - will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky says the dual canonization is part of the current pope’s program to reconcile liberals and conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church.
Video

Video In Capturing Nature's Majesty, Film Makes Case for Its Survival

French filmmaker Luc Jacquet won worldwide acclaim for his 2005 Academy Award-winning documentary "March of the Penguins". Now Jacquet is back with a new film that takes movie-goers deep into the heart of a tropical rainforest - not only to celebrate its grandeur, but to make the case for its survival. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Boston Marathon Bittersweet for Many Runners

Monday's running of the Boston Marathon was bittersweet for many of the 36,000 participants as they finished the run that was interrupted by a double bombing last year. Many gathered along the route paid respect to the four people killed as a result of two bombings near the finish line. VOA's Carolyn Presutti returned to Boston this year to follow two runners, forever changed because of the crimes.
Video

Video International Students Learn Film Production in World's Movie Capital

Hollywood - which is part of Los Angeles - is the movie capital of the world, and many aspiring filmmakers go there in hopes of breaking into the movie business. Mike O'Sullivan reports that regional universities are also a magnet for students who hope to become producers or directors.
Video

Video Pacific Rim Trade Deal Proves Elusive

With the U.S.-led war in Iraq ended and American military involvement in Afghanistan winding down, President Barack Obama has sought to pivot the country's foreign policy focus towards Asia. One aspect of that pivot is the negotiation of a free-trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations. But as Obama leaves this week on a trip to four Asian countries he has found it very difficult to complete the trade pact. VOA's Ken Bredemeier has more from Washington.
Video

Video Autistic Adults Face Housing, Job Challenges

Many parents of children with disabilities fear for the future of their adult child. It can be difficult to find services to help adults with disabilities - physical, mental or emotional - find work or live on their own. The mother of an autistic boy set up a foundation to advocate for the estimated 1.2 million American adults with autism, a developmental disorder that causes communication difficulties and often social difficulties. VOA's Faiza Elmasry reports.
AppleAndroid