Apaydın camp row heats up in commission again

Apaydın camp row heats up in commission again

Apaydın camp row heats up in commission again

The head of the Parliament’s Human Rights Examination Commission, Ayhan Sefer Üstün (C) talks to Syrian refugee children in Apaydın refugee camp on Aug 25. AA photo

A heated discussion erupted yesterday at Parliament’s Human Rights Examination Commission during a debate on the commission’s report on its visit to the Apaydın refugee camp, which is hosting defected Syrian soldiers close to the Turkish-Syrian border in southern province of Hatay.

Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) deputy Atilla Kaya revealed that during the Commission’s visit, Free Syrian Army (FSA) leader Riad al-Assad was at the camp. Main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) deputies criticized the report because it failed to mention al-Assad’s presence at the camp. “The commission met with the chief commander of the FSA at the Apaydın camp, but there’s not a single word mentioning him in the report. This report is a waste, there’s no need to lose time debating it,” CHP Deputy Hurşit Güneş, who was not part of the delegation sent to Apaydın on Aug. 25, said.

The presence of Syrian rebel soldiers in Turkey became a controversial issue after a CHP delegation was not allowed to visit the Apaydın refugee camp on Aug. 25. The CHP deputies had alleged that rebels were being trained in Apaydın camp.

Members of the Human Rights Examination Commission from the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and the MHP visited the camp Sept. 3 after the Foreign Ministry gave permission and refuted rumors that militants were being trained there. Commission members of the CHP and the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) shunned the visit on the grounds that a delegation could come “after the necessary precautions were taken.”

‘Justifying mistakes’

During yesterday’s meeting, MHP’s Kaya, who visited the Apaydın camp as a commission member, said that they did not witness any military training activity during their on-site monitoring, but he had the impression that the camp was the command center of the Syrian rebels.

“I asked Riad al-Assad whether he was the chief of the FSA or not, but he avoided giving me a clear answer. When strolling around, I asked one of the defected lieutenants whether he crosses into Syria or not, but the translator gave him a sign to make him say ‘no’. There was obviously no military training, but I had the impression that the camp was the command center of the Syrian civil war,” Kaya said during the meeting. “You went there to justify the mistakes of the government’s foreign policy. The commission’s reputation has been seriously damaged,” CHP deputy Levent Gök said. Commission chair Ayhan Sefer Üstün denied the opposition’s allegations, saying that they would have hidden al-Assad if they had intended to “clean up” the camp.