These internecine battles have unfolded among the complex sets of rebel groups, compounding the scorched-earth policy of Syrian president Assad as he attempts to wipe out the opposition entirely. The ISIS announced in September its campaign of “cleansing evil” to obliterate pro-Western rebels.
On any given day, cars crammed with food and supplies make their way into Jarabulus. A mere 90-minute drive from Jarabulus is the Syria-Turkey border town of Kilis, where Malek resides. The border crossing was shut down for the past few weeks because al-Qaeda affiliated groups began fighting with allies of the moderate Free Syrian Army.
The five-member Daham family was the one of the first arrivals—roughly 50 days ago—to this shanty town. A young boy sleeps in the Daham’s dilapidated, makeshift tent, flies sticking to his face. Khlaif, a 14-year-old boy from the Daham family, told me, “We have the soil [to] play with.”
The children’s mother, who suffers from a mental illness and is badly in need of psychiatric medication, said, “We are thankful for the Turkish government, but we need a place to stay for the kids.” There is no shortage of rumors about the opening of a new camp in Kilis to house the homeless refugees. As a result, large groups of displaced Syrians frequently appear at the gate to the Kilis camp expecting the governor of the province to announce the move to the newly built camp.
While Turkey has gone to great lengths to provide refuge for the overwhelming waves of needy Syrians, the situation in Kilis illustrates the larger problem. The Turkish authorities have absorbed some 500,000 Syrians spread across the county.
On the other hand, the Turkish government has given a kind of green light to the jihadists to cross into Syria. A deadly ISIS member, for example, who escaped from Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq and is now in Gaziantep, Turkey on his way to Syria, was featured this week in an interview that aired on Al Aan, an Arabic-language TV station based in Dubai..
Turkey’s unwillingness to commit to one side or another of the Syria issue complicates matters for refugees at camps like the one in Kilis and other towns along Syria’s border. Turkey, Jordan, Iraq, and Lebanon have absorbed more than two million Syrian refugees, and are slated to appeal to the international community at a “crisis meeting” in Geneva for more help.
Mahmoud, a former English schoolteacher from Syria who now lives in the Kilis camp, says there are two are types of refugee camps: containers and tents. Most of the refugees living in Southeastern Turkey are lodged in containers, he said. Mahmoud lives with his three children and wife in two rooms of a container. The third type of refugee are the homeless Syrians living in parks and shanty towns.
The camp provides health services, electricity, security and running water. Mahmoud said the refugees are issued identification cards with a line of credit attached. A monthly stipend is also provided to each family—for Mahmoud’s, the total is 525 Turkish Lira, or about $260. The camp can hold 12,000 refugees, but the real number of Syrians living in containers there is estimated to be between 15,000 and 17,000.