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

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

Republican Majority in Congress Off to Rough Start

Standoff over Homeland Security funding exposes philosophical, tactical problems within party More

Pakistan Blocks Baloch Activist from US Trip

Human Rights Commission of Pakistan slams Islamabad officials for stopping people from leaving country to attend human rights conference More

Video Muslims Long Thrived in North Carolina Before Students Killed

Idyll shattered February 10, when three Muslim university students living in Chapel Hill were gunned down by a neighbor 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.
Sierra Leone Ebola Orphans Face Another Crisisi
X
March 06, 2015 12:28 AM
There's growing concern about the future of an orphanage run by a British charity in Sierra Leone, after a staff member and his wife died this week from Ebola. The Saint George Foundation Orphanage in Freetown is now in quarantine, with more than 20 children and seven staff in lock-down. The BBC has agreed to share Ebola-related material with Voice of America because of the difficulties faced by media organizations reporting the crisis. Clive Myrie reports from Sierra Leone.
Video

Video Sierra Leone Ebola Orphans Face Another Crisis

There's growing concern about the future of an orphanage run by a British charity in Sierra Leone, after a staff member and his wife died this week from Ebola. The Saint George Foundation Orphanage in Freetown is now in quarantine, with more than 20 children and seven staff in lock-down. The BBC has agreed to share Ebola-related material with Voice of America because of the difficulties faced by media organizations reporting the crisis. Clive Myrie reports from Sierra Leone.
Video

Video Growing Concerns Over Whether Myanmar’s Next Elections Will Be Fair

Myanmar has scheduled national elections for November that are also expected to include a landmark referendum on the country's constitution. But there are growing concerns over whether the government is taking the necessary steps to prepare for a free and fair vote. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman was recently in Myanmar and files this report from our Southeast Asia bureau in Bangkok.
Video

Video Nigeria’s Ogonis Divided Over Resuming Oil Production

More than two decades ago, Nigeria’s Ogoni people forced Shell oil company to cease drilling on their land, saying it was polluting the environment. Now, some Ogonis say it’s time for the oil to flow once again. Chris Stein reports from Kegbara Dere, Nigeria.
Video

Video Winter Weather Strikes Eastern US...Again!

A new wintry blast has hit more than 20 states in the U.S. Midwest and Mid-Atlantic region, adding more snow to the piles from previous storms. Tired of shoveling snow, breaking the ice and dealing with accidents, flight delays and property damage, most Americans hope this is the last bout of cold for the season. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Muslims Long Thrived in N Carolina Before Slaying of 3 Students

The killings of three Muslim students in North Carolina early last month came as Muslims across the United States have felt under siege, partly as a result of terrorist attacks being committed internationally in the name of their faith. But Muslims have long thrived in university cities in this part of the American South. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Fuel Shortages in Nigeria Threaten Election Campaigns

Nigeria is suffering a gas shortage as the falling oil price has affected the country’s ability to import and distribute refined fuels. Coming just weeks before scheduled March 28 elections, the shortage could have a big impact on the campaign, as Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA.
Video

Video Report: Human Rights in Annexed Crimea Deteriorating

A new report by Freedom House and the Atlantic Council of the United States says the human rights situation in Crimea has deteriorated since the peninsula was annexed by Russia in March of last year. The report says the new authorities in Crimea are discriminating against minorities, suppressing freedom of expression, and forcing residents to assume Russian citizenship or leave. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video 50 Years Later African-Americans See New Voting Rights Battles Ahead

Thousands of people will gather to mark the 50th anniversary of a historic civil rights march on March 7th in Selma, Alabama. In 1965, dozens of people were seriously injured during the event known as “Bloody Sunday,” after police attacked African-American demonstrators demanding voting rights. VOA’s Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights pioneers who are still fighting for voting rights in Alabama more than 50 years later.
Video

Video Craft Brewers Taking Hold in US Beer Market

Since the 1950’s, the U.S. beer industry has been dominated by a handful of huge breweries. But in recent years, the rapid rise of small craft breweries has changed the American market and, arguably, the way people drink beer. VOA’s Jeff Custer reports.
Video

Video Video Claims to Show Shia Forces in Iraq Executing Sunni Boy

A graphic mobile phone video is spreading on the Internet, claiming to show Iraqi forces or Shia militia executing a handcuffed Sunni boy. Experts have yet to verify the video, but already Islamic State followers are publicizing it across social media, playing on deep-rooted sectarian fears. VOA’s Jeff Seldin reports.
Video

Video Ukrainian Authorities Struggle to Secure a Divided Mariupol

Since last month's cease-fire went into effect, shelling around the port city of Mariupol has decreased, but it is thought pro-Russian separatists remain poised to attack. For the city’s authorities, a major challenge is gaining the trust of residents, while at the same time rooting out informants who are passing sensitive information to the rebels. Patrick Wells reports for VOA.
Video

Video Myanmar's Traditional Fashion Choices Endure

The sartorial choices of Myanmar’s men and women quickly catch the eye of any visitor to the tropical Southeast Asian country. But at a time when Myanmar’s political and economic opening is bringing affordable western fashions to the masses, will the country’s unique fashion trends endure? VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Yangon explores that question.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More