Syrian rebels trained in refugee camps on Turkish border
by Ayça Söylemez
Ankara claims that the Apaydin camp in the province of Hatay is home to former Syrian military and their families displaced by the Assad regime. But parliament has never discussed the creation of the camp. Authorities prohibit any access to preserve the security of refugees who considered "special". In reality, the camp is a military base where the rebels of the 'Free Syrian Army are trained and from which they depart daily to fight against Assad.

Ankara (AsiaNews / Bianet) - Fighters of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) leave the Apaydın camp in the southern province of Hatay after daybreak to cross the border into Syria and fight the Al-Assad regime, only to return back to the camp toward evening, Abu Hussein, the commander of an FSA unit. "We are deeply thankful to the Turkish government and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan for receiving us with open arms," said Abu Hussein, who commands about 50 troops.

The Turkish authorities announced that the Apaydın camp in Hatay's Antakya district hosts officers of the Syrian army who deserted the Al-Assad regime and declared the camp to be an area prohibited to entry on due to reasons of security. The officials, however, are yet to offer an explanation about the domestic or international legal foundations on which the camp was established.

Official statements also indicated the inhabitants of the camp were Syrian army deserters, for which reason their names had to remain confidential.

The question of whether the Syrian Army actually has no clue about the identities of its deserting troops or not, however, still continues to linger in the air. As such, questions about the exact difference between residents of the Apaydın camp and the inhabitants of other refugee camps also warrant a reply. Whether all the camp dwellers in Apaydın are of Syrian extraction, of if they also include others coming from countries such as Tunisia, Yemen, Chechnya and Afghanistan is yet another question that needs to be answered.

The public continues to wonder about the circumstances under which the camp dwellers cross into Syria through border controls, how many Syrians have come to Turkey under the status of refugees, how many of them cross the border and how often.

And what does the government have to say regarding the allegations that these troops go to war into Syria in the morning and arrive back in the camp in Turkey at night? Has Parliament ever taken up the issue of establishing a camp under such a status?

Turkey's sights, therefore, are fixed on the "Apaydın Accomodation Facilities."

Confirmation of military activity

On 27 August, after a delegation of the opposition Republican People Party (CHP) was denied access to the camp, Ahmet Davutoglu, Turkish Minister of Foreign Affairs said: "Civilian and military refugees have different statuses. The [refugees'] approval is also required to enter military encampments. It is normal for those taking refuge as security forces to be subject to special treatment. " Even Bulent Arinc, the deputy prime minister, said that there are Syrian army deserters and their families in the camp and to protect their lives, access has been denied to politicians, but also to generals and colonels. Hatay Governor Celalettin Lekesiz also echoed the deputy prime minister's statement and said Syrian soldiers and their families fleeing from Al-Assad had taken refuge in the camp. " News reports indicating that Syrian rebels are receiving training in the Apaydın camp, and that Syrians are in control [there,] are out of line with reality," the head of the Ministry of Disaster Management and Emergencies (Afad) said in a statement.

Survival means crossing the border with Turkey

Abu Hussein, however, confirms that "there is military training in the camp where we are staying at, but the Turkish government does not allow us to roam about with arms." "We come and leave Turkey on a daily basis. We are staying at a tent camp right across the other side of the border. [We] go to war in the morning and return to the camp toward evening. We can cross the border with no difficulty." "Turkey - said Hussein - provides logistical support for us. Turkey is covering for our needs of food, drinks and medicine. We are also receiving aid from other countries, too. Our current goal is to form a buffer zone in İdlib, which is an area close to the border. " " The Syrian Army besieged us on the Syrian side three days ago", he adds. "We made it alive by crossing into the Turkish side of the border. If the regime falls, then we want to build a free country. We want to establish a system like in Turkey".


 * Courtesy of Turkish website Bia News Center ( )