HomeFeatured BlogsHundreds Wait for Kobani Fighting to End, Risking Lives at Border

Hundreds Wait for Kobani Fighting to End, Risking Lives at Border

Syrian Kurdish refugees wait behind the border fences to cross into Turkey near the southeastern Turkish town of Suruc on Friday.

SURUC—Some 1,000 people fleeing Islamic State insurgents in Kobani, remain stranded in a no-man’s-land at the Turkish-Syrian border. Some have been sleeping in their vehicles for a month, waiting for the fighting around the city to end, meanwhile risking their lives.

Cars, taxi cabs, trucks, tractors, construction and drilling machinery, as well as livestock, remained clustered at several points along the Syrian border near the Turkish town of Suruc early Thursday, stuck between Turkish territory and the minefields along the Syrian side of the border. Many waiting were reluctant to cross over into Turkey because it would mean abandoning their property.

“All we want is to take our belongings and return to Kobani once the battle is over,” said Mohammad Omer, 25. “My brothers are staying here, guarding our property: two trucks with five tons of sugar. Why would we all cross and be destitute in Turkey.” Mr. Omer himself crossed the border to Suruc to take his family to safety, but drove back to the border with a borrowed scooter every morning, he said on Thursday, to bring bread and cheese for breakfast back to his relatives waiting on the Syrian side.

Weekly food deliveries were taken to the refugees at the border, Turkish officials said, mostly canned and imperishable food, coupled with some aid provided by Syrian and international agencies, but the people received no daily meals.

“The [Kurdish] YPG [militia] will eventually win,” Mr. Omer added, sounding less than confident.

While Turkish officials in Suruc said people were free to cross “anytime they want,” but without their vehicles, military police denied access to the people who were lining up behind the border fence, mostly men, but also some women and children, waiting for their breakfasts brought by their refugee family members in Turkey.

“The Customs Ministry is working on something which would allow these people to take their belongings into Turkey, and permit them to use their vehicles here,” said a senior official in Suruc.

But a month has passed since the fight for Kobani began, and a number of deadly incidents have already been reported. At least two people in a “car camp” were killed when a mortar fired by Islamic State landed on a minefield, according to refugees, among other incidents.

In addition, Islamic State, after looting earlier this week inside Kobani, has also taken some vehicles from the stranded refugees.

“Yesterday morning some ISIS members came to pick two cars from here, a truck and a car,” said Ali Sheiho, 44, whose brother was at the border near Mert Ismail village, where at least a couple of hundred people were living in their vehicles.

Turkish official and refugees said the number of people staying at the border had fallen steadily over the past week of heavy clashes, with people leaving one by one, deciding their lives were more important than their possessions.

“When I saw with my own eyes how five jihadists erected their flag on the hill of Tel al-Shaier, and fired warning shots at us, I decided it was time to flee,” said Seyfeddin Ahmed, 28, who slept in his car for two weeks until last Thursday.

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(via WSJ Blogs)

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