Ankara (AsiaNews) – Turkish authorities finally opened the country’s border and allowed thousands of refugees to enter Turkish territory after they fled fighting between Kurdish and Islamic State (IS) group in Tal Abyad.
However, thousands more refugees from Tal Abyad are still stuck along the border eager to cross. They too hoped to enter Turkey, but were stopped by the Turkish military, forced to stay out in the open without food or water, braving hot days and cold nights.
According to some observers, the Turkish military is trying to steer refugees back towards Tal Abyad. Their goal is to use them as a shield against anti-IS coalition airstrikes and stop the Kurds from seizing the city.
Likewise, witnesses report IS fighters in battle clothing among the refugees at the border trying to push people to return.
Conversely, the Kurds want to take the city of Tall Abyad to deprive IS of an important entry point for weapons and jihadist fighters.
According to the Long-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, only 150 jihadists are left in Tall Abyad who plan to pull out if they do not receive reinforcements from Raqqa, the provincial capital that is IS’s stronghold in Syria. However, IS leaders in Raqqa appear unwilling to send more troops, after incurring losses from coalition airstrikes.
For his part, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has expressed fears that Kurds might move towards Raqqa, a step perceived as a threat to Arab and Turkmen after several incidents against Arab homes were reported in Tal Abyad. In responding to such fears, the Kurds said that whilst there were “isolated” incidents,” there was “no systematic violence”.
The Turkish President and his ruling AKP party are also concerned "about Turkey's future." If Syrian Kurds become stronger, oppressed Turkish Kurds could be tempted to secede.
Despite political manipulation of the refugee crisis, “Turkey has spent more than $ 6 billion so far for refugees. The international community’s help is only $ 300 million. The burden must be shared,” Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said.
Since the beginning of the war in Syria, Turkey has admitted 2 million refugees. The Turkish government has built 22 refugee camps for 220,000 people, but these have reached their limit. About 85 per cent of refugees live outside the camps.