Turkish authorities reportedly deny entry to Syrians fleeing IS in north

September 18, 2014

By Osama Abu Zeid and Brent Eng

AMMAN: Thousands of residents fled north to escape the Islamic State's notorious violence after the jihadist group attacked Kurdish villages near the PYD-controlled city Ain al-Arab in northern Aleppo Thursday, only to be stopped by Turkish soldiers on the border.

“The displaced Syrians fled and were met by obstinacy from the Turkish army about letting them in,” a Kurdish activist stuck on the border of Turkey who asked to remain anonymous told Syria Direct Thursday.

Kobane1 Syrians fleeing the Islamic State are reportedly turned back from Turkish border, where this picture was taken on Thursday. Photo courtesy of Mihemed Hiso.

“The number of displaced is between 7,000 to 10,000, including Arabs.”

Groups of the displaced, largely composed of women and children, were seen carrying overstuffed bags over their heads and suitcases by their sides after having rushed out of their homes Thursday morning.

“The Turkish [army] have only allowed in a small number of people until now, even though most of the displaced are women, children and the elderly because the men are fighting,” the activist said. 

Reporting from Kurdish media appeared to corroborate the account.

“The Turkish army is preventing the entry of villagers from east Kobani [the Kurdish term for Ain al-Arab] into its territory,” reported the local pro-Kurdish news agency Kurdish Direct Thursday morning.

The Turkish media, including the official news agency, have not yet commented on the report of refusing to take in the Syrian refugees.

IS has captured 21 villages east and west of Ain al-Arab since launching a major offensive against joint Kurdish PYD and FSA forces on Wednesday, effectively trapping residents up against the nearby Turkish border, according to the Kurdish news agency Rudaw.

Ain al-Arab is located at the foot of the Syrian-Turkish border crossing and historically has been used as a transit town between the two countries.

IS first began its siege on the Kurdish-majority area in July this year, prompting the PYD to form an unprecedented alliance with FSA battalions last week to combat the Islamist threat. By attacking Ain al-Arab, IS is attempting to consolidate its control over the land between its bases in al-Bab in Aleppo and A-Raqqa.

On Wednesday, following several days of fighting around Ain al-Arab, IS escalated its attack against the PYD by employing large numbers of tanks and heavy artillery in addition to firing missiles into the city, according the monitoring group Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

The PYD, the dominant military and political Kurdish presence in Syria, draws ideological support from its Turkish counterpart the PKK, which the Turkish and US governments consider a terrorist organization. The PYD views the area of Ain al-Arab along with other Kurdish majority places in northern Syria such as Al-Hasakah and the area of Efrin in northern Aleppo as part of ‘Syrian Kurdistan.’

Perhaps recognizing the gravity of the Kurdish plight, the PKK called upon Kurdish Turks to join the fight against IS in Ain al-Arab on Thursday, according to the Amsterdam-based, PKK-affiliated news agency Firatnews.

“The youth of North Kurdistan [Turkey] must go to Kobani and join the historic, honorable resistance,” the agency said.

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