News / Middle East

Turkish Villagers Watch Syrian Crisis Unfold

Residents of Güveççi, Turkey, look across the valley to Syria, June 11 2011
Residents of Güveççi, Turkey, look across the valley to Syria, June 11 2011


Henry Ridgwell

As the Syrian government continues its violent crackdown on protestors, thousands of people are fleeing across the Turkish border. In the village of Güveççi, Turkish residents have been watching the refugees stream across. The villagers have a unique vantage point on the events taking place across the border.

At the bottom of the valley lies the border dividing Turkey and Syria.

From their rooftops, the residents of Güveççi gather in a daily vigil - searching for any glimpse of what is unfolding in the Syrian hills beyond. Many have relatives living there.

In the late afternoon hundreds of people begin to gather over the border. As the crowd swells they hold a body aloft wrapped in a white sheet.

They carry it to an area of open ground among the orchards.

Locals say the body has been brought here to show the atrocities taking place in Syria to the watching media.

Muhammed is among those watching from the village. He arrived here 2 days ago from Syria. He says there are around 2,000 refugees hiding next to the border among the orchards. He said  the Syrian security agents are targeting people who tried to leave the country.

“They are attacking peoples houses and trying to stop them escaping. They break in to people’s houses and arrest them there. They even attacked them where they are hiding among the trees and took their children away from them. One woman has given birth hiding in those trees. The area where they’re living is completely open to attack. They drink only river water. They wash their clothes in the river and they wash their food with the river water and they drink it," he said.

Muhammed says the body is one of four shot dead by the Syrian security force in the villages just over the border.

Long-time Güveççi resident Abdullahın has seen the numbers of people gathering on the border steadily grow in the past few days. “They are scared to be killed that’s why they’re here. But maybe they don’t let them come in. I don’t know if they want to come to this side or if they stay there I’m sad, of course I’m sad. We are all brothers, we are all Muslims," he said.

Ambulances and Turkish military patrols pass by along the border. Villagers say some refugees are being housed at the local border post.

Locals on the Turkish side say that 2 days ago a group of several hundred refugees came over the border and were picked up by the Turkish military. The Syrians won’t let any foreign journalists in and they’re shutting down mobile phone and internet networks which means it’s impossible to say if more refugees are on their way.

Preparations are being made for more arrivals - like a refugee camp in the nearby town of Yayladağı.

Turkish officials say 4,300 people have now fled across the border. The true number including those who slipped across undetected is likely to be much higher.

Back in Güveççi, the crowd of mourners has disappeared from view. Syrian refugee Muhammed says the protests will go on until the Assad regime is finished. “All they want is to have democracy and freedom. They don’t want anything else from Bashr al-Assad. They want to live in a civilised way like all other countries in the world," he said.

Like the rest of the outside world, the people of Güveççi will continue to watch and wonder exactly what is happening in the lands beyond the border.

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