Waiting for Angelina Jolie!
Is it normal to have a refugee camp in Turkish territory which is closed to even the justice minister of Turkey? Is it possible for a governor of a Turkish province to forget that he is just a senior civil servant and engage in insolence against an opposition parliamentary delegation? Can, indeed, a governor refuse permission to a parliamentary delegation entering a certain “civilian” area in his province on the grounds that “guests” in that particular area want secrecy?
At the heart of the discussion is the “Apaydın Lodging Facility” some 40 kilometers out of the Hatay city center. Last year in June, United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) Goodwill Ambassador Angelina Jolie was greeted like a peace angel at the camps erected in Turkey for the Syrians fleeing strife in their homeland. The doors of the camps were wide open for her. Many things have changed since then, and the foreign minister of Turkey is publicly acknowledging that because of the “personal security” of the “guests” at the Apaydın camp, no one, let alone opposition deputies, can enter there.
This is happening at a time when there are rampant stories in the international media that the so-called Free Syrian Army is being given military training at camps in Turkey where they rest before returning to fight government forces and that the camps are under the command of a “military council” formed by some of the up to 30 generals that have sought refuge in Turkey. Worse, local people are complaining that “people in uniform” coming out of Apaydın and some other refugee camps are threatening the local Alawite population, saying, “Your turn will come eventually.”
Naturally, there might be some degree of exaggeration. Yes, exaggeration is rather normal if transparency is totally obstructed, if even an opposition parliamentary delegation is not allowed to visit a camp. Are the claims that Turkey started training the rebel army correct? What else is Turkey doing? Is it also providing them with missiles and other heavy weaponry? Is it not the right of the Turkish public to ask the government for clarification on the issue? Should the government not take measures to effectively eliminate the suspicions clouding its exemplary humanitarian drive?
Right, there might be some people at the camps, particularly at the Apaydın camp, whose identities should not be revealed for their own or their families’ safety. The media might not be given full access to the camps. However, how can a local official obstruct the supervisory duty of Parliament by denying permission to a parliamentary team?
According to the lectured foreign minister, the Apaydın camp has a “different, special status.” How can a refugee camp turn into some sort of a prohibited military area? Not only has Turkey spent hundreds of millions of dollars for the refugees so far, but the number of refugees – bordering on 80,000 – has become a serious domestic security problem for Turkey. Seven more camps are reportedly in the pipeline. Establishing a buffer zone (that is, the occupation of Syrian territory) and building camps in the buffer zone is also in the cards. Something worse might yet be in the pipeline.
Shall we wait for another trip from Angelina Jolie to catch a glimpse of what’s really happening in the refugee camps?