EIGHT SYRIANS, most of them women and childr- en, have been killed by Turkish border guards while fleeing their war-torn homeland.The group was trying to cross into Turkey via a mountain smuggling route at the western end of the frontier when they were pushed back by Turkish forces firing live rounds.Mobile phone footage obtained by the Times shows a main carrying his young son,who has been shot in both legs, back down the winding mountain path in the hope of reach- ing medical help. Another man who has been shot in the upper arm says on the vedio that he is flee- ing both Islamic State and the Syrian regime.
Abdmunem Kashkash, a lawyer from Aleppo who was with the group but managed to cross into Turkey unharmed, said that they had been waiting in the border area for severa days while trying to cross and had come under fire from the Turks every day.They are killing unarmed people, Mr Kashkash said. There was one little girl who has shot and we couldn’t do more for her for four hours, until nightfall. An old man and women are missing-they have probably been killed too.The wounded have been taken to a hospital in Azaz, a rebel-held Syrian town next to the Turkish border that is sheltering 100,000 displacedpeople who have fled the regime and Isis is closing in on the town from the east, but despite calls from aid agencies the Turkish government is refusing to open the border gate.
One Sunday night’s killings are the latest in a series of violent incidents since December that have left at least two dozen refug- ees dead and point to a seismic shift in Ankara’s border policy.
The Turkish government insists that it has maint- ained the same open-door policy at the frontier since 2011, with free access for all Syrians whose lives are in imminent danger. A senior Turkish official told the times that, certain restrictions may apply due to special circums- tances, but the policy hasn’t charged”.The official added; It’s difficult to enforce a land border and the Turkish border guards is acting with extreme care beca- use smugglers and militants have fired on them in the past. But we categorically deny claims that Turkish border guards are firing on refugees.
Rights organizations, however, say that the border has been all but closed to those fleeing the conflict.The open border policy hasn’t been reflected on the ground for some time, Andrew Gardner,Amne- sty international’s Turkey researcher, said: Regu- lar border crossings are effectively closed to all SyrIan refugees apart from those with life-threat- ening trauma injuries.For the rest, irregular cross- ing are difficult and dangerous.Earlier this month, a people smuggler who had formerly helped scor- es of refugees across the frontier each day told The Times that Turkish troops, used to carry the refugees” bags, but now they shoot on them.
The path that the group was trying to take, betw -een the Syrian village of Khirbet al-Joz and the Turkish village of Guvecci, was one of the first routes that refugees used to flee Syria as violence engulfed the country in 2011.Later, the Turkish government allowed almost unfettered access across the border, but came under fire from the international community as it turned into the main route for foreign jihadist travelling into Iss territory.Even once in Turkey the refugees are not safe. On that Monday four Syrians, three of them child- ren, were killed in the southern town of kilis by shells fired from Syria.
Since the start of the crackdown late last year. Turkey has designed the border region as a milita- ry zone and built a high concrete wall along key streches of it’s 511 mile length. Smugglers, who used to charge $50 for passage across the bord- er,now demand up to $500 per person.A refugee who crossed ten days ago told The Times that Syrians believed that Turkey had changed its bor- der policy, but was not issuing orders to kill refug- ees. In the past it was so easy, we had help from the Turks to cross, said Zaid Abu Tariq, who spent a month trying to cross the border before succee- ding.Now if you are close to the soldiers then they shoot in the air. We have heard of many cases of Syrians being killed in Hatay province-we think this is because it’s an Alawite region”.
The southern province of Hatay, which Syrian has longed claimed as its own, is largely populated by Turkish Alawite, who belong to president Assad’s sect. Many are hostile to the Sunni refugees who have settled in the province. However, the soldiers guarding the border come from across Turkey and it’s unlikely that the deaths are related to sectarianism.A founder of the German anti-immigrat group, Pegida went on trial to changed with incitement over Facebook posts in which he allegedly called foreigners cattle and trash.Lutz Bachmann is accused of trying to incite German against refugees with the social media posts from September 2014. Photos of him posing as Adolf Hitler also surfaced. His trial in Dresden is due to last until May 10. Incitement carries a sentence of up to five years.
Mr Bachmann expressed regret shortly after the posts. He described them as ill considered comments that I wouldn’t make in this way today ‘and apologised for harming Pegida. He denies the charges, saying that the trial is purely politically motivated’ and meant to discredit him and the group. His lawyer, Katharine Reichel, rejected the charges in court, saying he didn’t write the postings.As the trial began, supporters staged a protest outside the court bearing banners calling for Freedom for Lutz Bachmann’. Opponents chanted:Bachmann in the slammer , According to the Saechsische Zeitung, Mr Bachmann has previously spent time in jail for burglary and possession of drugs.
Rayhan Ahmed Topader