In A Change, Turkey Tightens Its Border With Syria
The spring sun is warming the fields and orchards along the Turkey-Syria border, and new refugee camps are sprouting as well.
Smugglers who have long worked these mountain border trails are now busy moving civilians out of Syria to the safety of Turkish camps. They’re also moving medical and communications equipment and people into opposition-held neighborhoods in Syria. But recently, some say that’s getting harder.
A smuggler known as Abu Ayham says Turkish guards, who used to permit nonlethal aid to pass freely, have suddenly grown much tougher on the smugglers.
“The situation is very hard now,” Ayham says. “On the Turkish side, if the guards catch you and you have nothing but a mobile phone, they will take it and they might jail you. The other day a group was stopped carrying only small tents for people hiding in the mountains. The guards said, ‘This is military equipment,’ and seized it.”
Activists say it could be the whim of a local Turkish commander, and smugglers working different routes say they haven’t encountered similar problems.
On the other hand, analysts say Turkey recently caught 14 supporters of the separatist PKK Kurdish movement trying to cross into Turkey from Syria.
Turkey is worried that Syrian President Bashar Assad might revive Syria’s support for the Kurdish separatists seeking a homeland in southeastern Turkey, as his father, Hafez, did in the 1990s.
When asked about international assistance pledged for Syria, the smugglers say they haven’t seen it. But that may be because aid officials are worried about maintaining neutrality.
Pictured: Turkish army personnel patrol near the border with Syria in Kilis earlier this month. Activists and smugglers say it’s getting harder to get medical and communications equipment into Syria across the Turkish border.