70,000 Syrian Kurds flee to Turkey amid border unrest
GENEVA - Agence France-Presse
DHA PhotoAn estimated 70,000 Syrians have crossed into Turkey in less than two days, and tens of thousands more refugees are expected to arrive over the coming days, as Syrian Kurds flee the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), the U.N. refugee agency UNHCR has warned.
“Turkish government authorities and UNHCR are preparing for the possibility of hundreds of thousands more refugees arriving over the coming days, as the battle for the northern Syrian city of Kobane forces more people to flee,” UNCHR said in a statement.
“I commend Turkey’s welcoming response to offer refuge and aid to this population so suddenly and violently driven from their homes in fear for their lives,” said Antonio Guterres, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.
Syrians have arrived in the Turkish province of Şanlıurfa in massive numbers after ISIL’s recent attacks and siege of Kobane, which hosts nearly 200,000 internally displaced people mainly from Syria’s Kurdish minority. ISIL continues to clash with forces from the People’s Defense Units (YPG) in Tell Abyad and Kobane.
At least 70,000 people are confirmed to have crossed into Turkey in less than two days, and the real figure may be more than 100,000, Carol Batchelor, the UNHCR representative in Turkey told Reuters yesterday.
“I don’t think in the last three and a half years we have seen 100,000 cross in two days. So this is a bit of a measure of how this situation is unfolding, and the very deep fear people have about the circumstances inside Syria and for that matter, Iraq,” Batchelor said.
After initially turning people back, Turkish authorities on Sept. 19 opened parts of the frontier to allow civilians, mostly women, children and the elderly, to cross to safety.
Turkey is already hosting 1.3 million Syrian refugees and officials estimate the relief effort has cost the government in excess of $3 billion.
ISIL fighters seized dozens of villages close to the border and advanced on the frontier town of Kobane, as Kurdish commanders issued a rallying cry to Turkish Kurds to join the fight.
Batchelor expressed gratitude to Turkey, warning that the ferocity of the fighting and the fast-moving situation near Kobane made any cross-border aid efforts impossible, meaning there was no option other than to keep the Turkish border open.
“Quite frankly we don’t know when those numbers will end, we don’t know what the future holds ... It could well go again into the hundreds of thousands. We need assistance for core, life-saving support,” Batchelor said.
ISIL has seized at least 64 villages around Kobane since the onslaught started on Sept. 16, using heavy arms and thousands of fighters. It executed at least 11 civilians on Sept. 20, including at least two boys, The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said yesterday.
UNHCR says it has received less than a quarter of an estimated $497 million it requested to tackle the refugee problem facing Turkey.
Meanwhile, more than 300 Kurdish fighters have crossed into Syria from Turkey to help push back an ISIL advance on a Kurdish border town, a group monitoring Syria’s conflict said on Sept. 20.
“They crossed over last night, they are more than 300,” said Rami Abdulrahman, who runs the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights that monitors the war using sources on the ground.
He said it was not clear which group the fighters belonged to but said they had joined Kurdish forces in Syria who are fighting ISIL around Kobane. Citizen news reports, however, said they were members of the People’s Defense Forces (HPG), the armed wing of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
Police disperse demo near Syria border
ŞANLIURFA - Agence France-Presse
security forces used tear gas and water cannon Sept. 21 to disperse a
Kurdish demonstration of support for fellow Kurds who fled a jihadist
offensive across the border in Syria.
AFP journalists said the hundreds of young demonstrators fought back by hurling rocks and setting up barricades on the road leading to a nearby border crossing.
"We've come to support our brothers in Syria under attack by Daesh," demonstrator Mehmet Eminakma told AFP, referring to the ISIL.
The security forces forced demonstrators away from a barbed wire border fence that stands just five kilometres from the town of Ain al-Arab, where Kurdish fighters are holding off the jihadists.