Middle East
4:55 am
Wed September 11, 2013

Syrian Refugees In Turkey Want U.S. Strikes, Turks Are Wary

Originally published on Wed September 11, 2013 7:54 am

Transcript

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Americans have choices about how involved they want to be in Syria's civil war. Syrians have no choice, and the same is true of Syria's neighbors.

People along Turkey's border with Syria deal with errant mortar fire, refugees and lost trade. And we're going next to a Turkish village along that dividing line.

Here's NPR's Peter Kenyon.

PETER KENYON, BYLINE: Ceylanpinar is one of those small Turkish villages smack on the border, and it has the scars to show for it.

(SOUNDBITE OF TRAIN)

KENYON: A small train scrapes along narrow tracks not 20 yards across the border, a sign of happier days of cross-border trade. Now the second car has a jagged hole the size of a basketball blown through it. A teacher's compound, perhaps 50 yards from Syria, shows more evidence of Ceylanpinar's claim to have suffered more than any other Turkish town since the Syrian conflict erupted.

HALIL: (Foreign language spoken)

KENYON: Halil, a 40-year-old laborer helping to build a new refugee camp nearby, stands beneath two holes ripped by stray fire into the teacher's building. He says it hasn't been easy to get new teachers to come here. His can't get his own daughters to class, either. They're traumatized from too many explosive-filled nights. When asked what's to be done, Halil shrugs. We've seen everything fall on us here, he says. Now we're just waiting on the chemical weapons.

(SOUNDBITE OF CONSTRUCTION)

KENYON: At a nearby cafe, Kurdish men hunch around a low table. Much of the population here is Kurdish, and many people have relatives just across the border where Syrian Kurdish fighters are battling Islamist rebel units. These are the fights scarring Ceylanpinar, not attacks from the Syrian army. All these men are strongly opposed to an American strike, believing that more fighting will only bring more pain to Ceylanpinar.

CEYLIL COLDU: (Foreign language spoken)

KENYON: Half the village has moved away, those that can afford to, says Ceylil Coldu, waving his arm at the shops across the street. If you check those buildings, you'll find bullet holes in most of them.

(SOUNDBITE OF CHILDREN PLAYING)

KENYON: More than 100 miles west, Syrian families hurry to get through the Kilis border crossing before closing time. A man from Idlib province, who gives his name as Abu Fateen, turns his back to the gusting evening wind as he says he's open for a decisive military blow against the forces of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

ABU FATEEN: (Foreign language spoken)

KENYON: God willing, Syrians want this strike to finish the madness, so we can return home to our country, he says. A big strike or small, I don't care, just as long as they finish Assad.

(SOUNDBITE OF VEHICLE STARTING)

KENYON: In the Kilis offices of the humanitarian coordination unit, an aid group with ties to the main Syrian opposition block, planning is underway to deal with the next humanitarian crisis. The director asks to be called Abu Suleiman to protect his family inside Syria from retaliation.

ABU SULEIMAN: (Foreign language spoken)

KENYON: We're finishing up our emergency plan, he says. There are chemical weapons washing stations and a stock of drugs, medical equipment and staff that we can mobilize quickly. We learned from the chemical attack inside Syria about the need to move fast. Abu Suleiman is quick to praise the Turkish government for its unstinting humanitarian support. But those who cross the border routinely say it's getting harder for displaced Syrians to get in.

(SOUNDBITE OF CLANGING)

KENYON: At a Kilis tea shop, we meet Hamza - not his real name - a volunteer at the Syrian camp. He says thousands have been waiting for months to cross into Turkey, and now they're expecting even more would-be refugees.

HAMZA: (Foreign language spoken)

KENYON: This camp has been bombed four times, so naturally, not everyone wants to live here, he says. If there's another large movement of people, though, we're going to be short of tents. We're hoping Turkey will agree to let some of the people now in the camp to cross the border. That would make more room for the next wave. Like many Syrians, Hamza can't say when or how things might get better. He's too busy trying to deal with the life-and-death crises that fill the hours of so many Syrians these days. Peter Kenyon, NPR News, Gaziantep, Turkey. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.