In a region aflame, Turkey becomes the refuge for all

In a region aflame, Turkey becomes the refuge for all

Emre Kızılkaya
In a region aflame, Turkey becomes the refuge for all

Last month, Turkish Red Crescent had sent 16 trucks carrying banners that read "Turkish people's humanitarian aid to the people of Iraq."

Turkey has become a refuge - and a huge field hospital - for increasing numbers of people fleeing their homelands, while continuing to send humanitarian aid to a number of conflict zones in the region.

According to the United Nations, two of the four countries in the world that are currently facing a “humanitarian catastrophe” are neighbors of Turkey: Iraq and Syria. Up to 30,000 people are still at immediate risk of “potential genocide” in the two countries, according to the U.N.

Crossborder aid

U.N. special representative Nickolay Mladenov announced on Aug. 14 that Iraq had been declared a “Level 3 Emergency” country to help trigger additional goods, funds and assets, in order to respond to the needs of tens of thousands of people displaced by the militants of the extremist group, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). More than 200,000 Iraqis are now displaced in northern Iraq.

AFAD, Turkey’s disaster agency, opened a tent city in Zakho, northern Iraq, on Aug. 14 to host Yazidis fleeing from the Sinjar region amid ongoing attacks by ISIL. Deputy Prime Minister Beşir Atalay said the camp could host up to 5,000 refugees for now, but will soon be enlarged for the accommodation of 16,000 refugees.

Meanwhile, Turkey is continuing its operations to aid over 10,000 Turkmens fleeing from ISIL attacks in northern Iraq. The Turkish Red Crescent has so far sent 4,000,000 Turkish Liras worth of humanitarian aid to the region, while AFAD has delivered 109 truckloads of aid since last month.

A field hospital

Turkey has also become something of a field hospital amid the regional conflagration.

Vian Dakhil, a Yazidi member of the Iraqi Parliament, is still being treated in Istanbul after a helicopter carrying aid to trapped people crashed during take-off in northern Iraq on Aug. 12.

Hundreds of injured people from Syria have been or are still being treated in Turkish hospitals, including 13 Syrian soldiers who were wounded in clashes with ISIL in Raqqa this month. Turkish medics in the southeastern province of Şırnak provided humanitarian aid to the soldiers, despite the objections of opposition-sympathizing Syrians now living in the province.

Turkish hospitals are also hosting two Azeri soldiers who were recently wounded in clashes with Armenians on the Karabakh frontline, as well as 25 Gazans who were injured in the recent Israeli offensive. Parliament Speaker Cemil Çiçek visited the Azeris and Gazans in an Ankara hospital on Aug. 14, while Deputy Prime Minister Beşir Atalay announced that Turkey planned to treat 200 more Gazans. Ankara has sent medical supplies and food worth $1.5 million to Gaza so far, Atalay added.

In addition, Turkey announced that it had started bringing sick Crimean Tatars, a Turkic group, from the restive breakaway region to Turkey for treatment late last month.

‘We show patience, we tolerate’

“Right now, we have 1.2 million Syrian muhajirs [Islamic term for refugees] in our country. Despite some problems, we show patience, we tolerate,” Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who was elected as Turkey’s 12th President on Aug. 10, said on Aug. 14.

Turkey’s refugee population has become even more diverse in recent months, including not only Syrians and Iraqis, but also Libyans and Egyptians - who have established a “Revolutionary Council” in Istanbul against military strongman President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi - among others.

Iraqi Christians are the latest group to have asked for Ankara’s help, with Michael Dumand, the Paris-based leader of Iraq’s Chaldean Catholic community, telling Anadolu Agency on Aug. 14 that “we want Turkey to look after us.”