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Bab al-Hawa border to reopen, without accepting Coalition passports

Passports issued by the opposition-in-exile Syrian National Coalition will not […]

12 October 2015

Passports issued by the opposition-in-exile Syrian National Coalition will not be accepted at the Bab al-Hawa border crossing with Turkey in the north Idlib countryside when it officially reopens next week, Nour Abu Remas, the spokesman for the crossing’s civilian administration, tells Noura Hourani.

Turkish authorities closed Bab al-Hawa this past March, citing security concerns. Since then, rare exceptions have been made for transit travelers and medical emergencies.

Although the French government is supporting the Coalition’s issuance of passports, Abu Remas says that a thriving counterfeit business across the border in Turkey is undermining the effort.

Q: Why did the Turkish side refuse to accept National Coalition passports?

The passports are not internationally recognized and the Turkish side has refused to deal with them.

We have posted and warned citizens about [Coalition] passports in the past because they may be counterfeit. I myself have seen how the forging is done in an office in Reyhanli [a Turkish town five kilometers northwest of Bab al-Hawa].

[Editor’s note: With French assistance, the opposition Syrian National Coalition began issuing official passports in Turkey this past May, al-Quds al-Arabi reported.]

Q: What will those who have lost their regime-issued passports do?

There is no way except to enter illegally, by paying a bribe on both sides.

Q: Who runs Bab al-Hawa?

The media says that management of the crossing was turned over to a civilian administration, but this was only a superficial change.

In reality, it is run by the [rebel] factions, particularly Ahrar a-Sham.

Q: Civilians have accused border officials on both sides of corruption and bribery. What is your view of this?

The border is not free of corruption, including smuggling and favoritism. For example, if an individual has a friend or family member in the border administration then he is allowed in quickly, without waiting his turn. 

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