and Syria: Blood, Tears, and Walls
By Andre Vltchek
- A Turkish poet, Mustafa Goren, is standing in
the middle of a street in the border town of
Karkamış. He raises his index finger towards the
sky prophetically, then shouts at me, with his
against the invasion into Syria! Is this
another game of the West? These are our
children, our boys that are dying there.
These are innocent children of Syria that
are being blown to pieces. Why do Syrian
people have to run to Europe; tell me why?
Why do they have to humiliate themselves, to
suffer? Syria used to be rich. Those people
are even more cultured than we are, more
cultured than the West. How did this
Goren then strikes a dramatic pose. Suddenly he
looks like the great Soviet poet Mayakovski,
spitting out his verses full of anger. This is
not just poetry, but a desperate j’accuse?
Goren, Turkish Poet (Photo: Andre Vltchek)
mocking him, behind his back, Turkish military
trucks are moving towards the border, passing
through the streets where almost all shops have
been shut down, sad victims of the conflict that
keeps devastating further and further an already
desperate Turkish economy.
speak to Europe now: You will soon be
drowning in the water that you are now
drinking. You will pay for what you are
doing to Syria and to other countries. It is
entirely your fault, Europe! It is entirely
your fault the West! One day, true leaders
of the world will come, and they’ll cut off
all the gas and petrol supplies to you, and
you’ll find yourself in even deeper shit the
one into which you threw this part of the
world! You’ll have to burn your designer
clothes and shoes, just to stay warm. You
forgot, but you will soon be reminded,
Europe: we are all human beings!
Goren recites in front of a humble stall, which
is selling cigarettes. It is adorned with
historic photographs of Kemal Ataturk. A few
meters from there, an enormous watchtower is
rising towards the dark, cloudy sky.
Wall (Photo: Andre Vltchek)
border is right there, defined by a tall, gray,
melancholic concrete wall, and by several
watchtowers. Right next to the gate, a mobile
medical unit and several ambulances are standing
by. They are ready to cross the frontier, to
move into Syria, where the Turkish military is
officially fighting the terrorists, but in
reality undermining the Syrian forces. The
operation is called “Euphrates Shield”.
units at the border ready to move in (Photo:
came all the way here, to the Syrian town of
Jarabulu, right across the border”, explained
Bulent Polat, a trader whose shop is now half
empty, due to the war. “Jarabulus is under the
control of the Turkish military. Just imagine:
the Turkish government doesn’t allow Syrian
President Assad to send fighter jets nearer than
3 kilometers to the border, but it allows ISIS
to come as close as 3 meters. We should have
never interfered with the domestic policy of
Syria, and there would be peace!”
Polat is from the opposition ‘The Republican
People’s Party’. He’s a Kemalist. For
years he worked in both sides of the border. Now
he recalls, in disgust:
mobilize people against Assad, the
anti-government militants supported by
Turkey and the West, have been dressing in
official Syrian military uniforms, then
shoot at the civilians, killing many. Then
they say: ‘Assad did it!’ It has been
happening all over Syria.
Turkey is building a 900-kilometers long wall,
which is supposed to seal hermetically its
border with Syria. Express.co.uk quoted
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan: “The
problem of terrorism and the refugee problem
will be resolved when we secure Syrian soil step
Kurdish population on both sides of the border
is clearly outraged about the wall. The tall
ugly structure is dividing communities and marks
the region like an ugly scar. Now Turkish forces
can always enter Syria, using tanks and armored
vehicles, while Syrians are being kept out.
military installation near the border (Photo:
Karkamış and drove to an ancient graveyard, from
where we photographed the wall and the lazy
waters of the river Euphrates. The Syrian town
of Jarabulus was right in front of us.
were tense. A local farmer recalled:
Injection of the militants began from the
Turkish territory. Assad had to launch a
defensive security operation. That’s how the
precisely what he was saying. Back in 2012 I
worked around Antakya, discovering that while
officially listed as a ‘refugee facility’,
Apaydin camp was, in fact, a training facility
for the anti-Syrian jihadi cadres. The NATO
facility – Incirlik air force base near the city
of Adana – was allegedly training several other
groups. In 2013 I returned to Antakya, making a
documentary film for the South American
television channel Telesur. The entire
area was converted into a security zone, and my
team was repeatedly stopped and intimidated. We
managed to track the militants who were armed in
Turkey. Those wounded in Syria were treated in
from Gaziantep to Kilis, the entire area is
flooded with refugees and its economy is
girl street vendor in Gaziantep (Photo: Andre
drove through villages like Ikizkaya, consisting
mainly of clay houses, many of them abandoned.
everywhere. In Kalbursait Village near Karkamış,
a Syrian refugee explained that he has lived
here, with his animals, for four years.
war stops, would he go back? He doesn’t know, he
to blame for the war?” I asked.
don’t know…” came an immediate reply.
go”, my interpreter insisted. “This man is
Everybody appears to be frightened.
night I was taken by my friends from the TKP
near the back entrance of Dr. Ersin Arslan State
Hospital in Gaziantep. This is where wounded
Free Syria Army and other militants are brought
to at night. We ordered tea at a local eatery,
and began conversing with the staff. Suddenly,
there was a loud shout from outside:
Akbar – bum!”
guests ran for a cover. We got out to
investigate. A bearded man, obviously an Arab
speaker, was leaning against the wall. He had
two bullet wounds in his foot. The wounds were
infected. The man was clearly distressed. He was
mumbling something about jihad.
Gaziantep is a recruitment center for militant
cadres and for the Free Syrian Army; so are
towns and cities like Kilis and Antakya.
night, I was taken to a bakery near a mosque in
Gaziantep, where recruitment and indoctrination
of the militants takes place.
given photos of bodies torn apart by powerful
explosions. I was shown images of dead children,
of morgues and of people in total desperation.
Kutay Sirikli from the opposition TKP pointed an
accusative finger at both the West and Ankara:
Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is one of the founding
fathers of the so-called ‘Great Middle East
Project’. He’s trying to politicize the
entire Middle East. His dream is a New
Ottoman Empire. Of course if there is any
novel formation in this part of the world,
it is always connected to the West. However,
from time to time, Erdoğan takes his own
initiative. And he makes profit: petrol that
is stolen by ISIS from the Syrian regions
goes through Turkey to the West. They refine
refugees get work permits now, and there is talk
that soon they would be able to apply for
Turkish citizenship if they pass the language
test. Syrian children get one-year intensive
language course, and then they can attend local
schools. Some refugees get even the equivalent
of the Turkish minimal wage as a support – 1.400
liras per month (almost US$400).
is demonstrating simultaneously great compassion
and inordinate brutality.
Istanbul, the historian Yiğit Günay, clarified
Many people believe that this government has
some integrated plan. The truth is, there is
nothing like that – not even some two-year
plan. Nobody trusts anybody, anymore, and
things keep changing overnight.
are driving towards the airport in Adana, my
friend and interpreter looks suddenly tired:
a person who visited Aleppo before the
invasion I am devastated because of what
happened to that ancient and stunning city…
It was a thriving business hub with
incredibly beautiful archeological and
historical sites when I was there…. now it
is a city that will need decades to recover,
and most of the damage is irretrievable. The
whole area is now a total disaster…
entering the city of Adana, the bright runway
lights of Incirlik air force base suddenly
emerge from the darkness. This airport is
perhaps the most vivid symbol of NATO war games
in this part of the world. One cannot just pass
– almost all cars are being stopped and checked.
engulfing Southeast Turkey. When several hours
earlier we drove into the Elbeyli border town,
(a crossing on the way to the embattled Syrian
city of Al Bab) what we faced were new mighty
walls and fences, as well as high-tech security
cameras. From here, the Turkish army is
periodically invading Syria.
decided to get my hair cut here, so I could chat
with the locals. Just a few minutes and my
barber whispered: “They are surrounding you.”
Police and plain clothed security cadres were
looking at us through the window, taking notes,
calling somewhere. We paid and drove away from
this dismal town, at neck breaking speed.
wouldn’t be able last long here, nobody would.
This cat and mouse game is exhausting and truly
dangerous. But what is Turkey really trying to
hide? It is a well-known fact that it is
training the militants, and invading Syria. All
this is not a secret. So what is?
the true ‘secret’ is that many of its own
citizens are actually against the war. And that
not Syria only, but to some extent Turkey too,
is now suffering and bleeding.