Nicolas Cheviron, AFP
Last updated: 11 April, 2012

Syrian refugees call on Turks to return their dead

Perched on top of his temporary home at a camp in Turkey for Syrian refugees, Kadura Arafat Faydo started shouting “God is Great,” just to annoy the Syrian troops visible across the border.

The troops, said Faydo, answered his taunt with gunfire.

“I climbed onto the roof of my prefab. Shots were being fired and you could see the tracer bullets,” explained Faydo, a 50-year-old Syrian farmer, living in the Kilis camp in southeastern Turkey.

Overnight Sunday to Monday, Syrian security forces opened fire on rebels of the Free Syrian Army as they approached the border, just a few hundred yards away from the Kilis camp.

“We started shouting ‘God is great’ because it annoys (Syrian President Bashar) al-Assad’s men, but when we did so they started firing at us,” he added.

Refugees at the Kilis camp want local officials to return their dead — two men shot by the Syrian army who fired from across the border.

Turkish officials said the gunfire — the first such border incident since the start of unrest in Syria over a year ago — left six wounded at the camp, two of them Turkish.

But refugees say the toll was much heavier.

“In a prefabricated building, a father was shot dead by a bullet that then wounded his son in the shoulder as they were having breakfast. The son is seriously hurt and was taken to hospital in Gaziantep,” Faydo said.

“It was a bullet fired by a sniper,” he claimed.

Walid Muhammad Allawi said one of his uncles was also killed.

“My uncle went up onto the roof of the prefab… A bullet hit him, entering through an ear and exiting through the mouth. Another hit him in the stomach,” according to the 28-year-old scrap metal merchant from Jisr al-Shughur, in northwestern Syria.

The Turkish governor of Kilis said two wounded Syrians died Monday in the town’s hospital. But they had just crossed the border and were not staying at the refugee camp, one of half a dozen set up by Turkey to house the growing tide of cross-border refugees, he added.

Some 25,000 Syrian refugees have been given shelter in the camps, 10,000 of them in Kilis, according to Turkish officials.

Refugees are now calling for their dead to be returned to them.

“One of them has already been buried. But the Turks took the body of the second one and now we want it back to bury him,” said a young man, who declined to be named.

The refugees said they also wanted to recover the body of a fellow Syrian shot dead overnight Tuesday to Wednesday at the border, and rescue six others who are believed to be wounded and who are still in the killing zone.

“Nobody dares go close. Syrian soldiers are challenging us saying ‘If you’re men, come and get them,'” Faydo said.

Bullets hit prefabricated camp buildings, prompting refugees to move away from the side of the camp most exposed to gunfire, refugees told AFP.

Turkish authorities meanwhile were building higher walls to protect the camp, a measure some refugees thought insufficient.

“Where are the tanks, where are the Turkish soldiers? We need soldiers here to protect us. Around the camp there is no protection,” Allawi said.