Syria Protest Homs 311.
(photo credit: Reuters)
Fearing for their lives as President Bashar Assad’s troops deployed in the north
of the country, Syrian refugees poured across the border into Turkey throughout
The Turkish Foreign Ministry said some 2,400 refugees had
crossed the border in the space of 24 hours, prompting Foreign Minister Ahmet
Davutoglu to call on Syria to act “more decisively” in carrying out reforms
promised by Syrian President Bashar Assad.
Local residents in
northwestern Syria said dozens of tanks and armored personnel carriers were
amassed outside the town of Jis al-Shughour, where Syrian authorities accused
“armed gangs” of killing over 120 state security personnel earlier in the week.
Residents said the town had been virtually abandoned out of fear of mass
bloodshed in the coming days.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan
told Turkish radio Thursday that “Syria is causing concern for us.” He also
vowed that Turkey “will always keep our doors open to our Syrian brothers and
sisters,” and said “it’s not possible for us to shut our doors at a time when
deadly violence is on the rise [in Syria] and our brothers there are looking for
A total foreign-press blackout has made the reality on the
ground in Syria virtually impossible to confirm, but rights groups maintain that
over 1,100 civilians have been killed in ongoing anti-regime protests that broke
out in March. According to Syrian authorities, over 200 state security personnel
have been killed in the upheaval.
There have also been growing reports of
desertions by Syrian police and army personnel.
On the Facebook page of
the anti-regime activist group “The Syrian Revolution,” a video posted on
Thursday purports to show a Syrian army lieutenantcolonel accusing the regime of
using armed gangs to massacre civilians.
Syrian opposition groups said
Thursday that they were planning another series of “Day of Rage” protests
against the regime on Friday.
With international concern growing over
Syria’s repression of prodemocracy protests, Britain, France, Germany and
Portugal have asked the UN Security Council to condemn Assad. However,
veto-holding Russia has said it opposes any such measure.
have shown no appetite for Libya-style military intervention in Syria, which has
so far shrugged off sanctions and verbal reprimands.
“Jisr al-Shughour is
practically empty. People were not going to sit and be slaughtered like lambs,”
said one refugee who crossed into Turkey, giving his name as
“Demonstrations in the villages are still going on. Women and
children are carrying flowers and shouting ‘People want the downfall of the
regime,’” he said.
Rami Abdulrahman, of the Syrian Observatory for Human
Rights, said at least 15,000 troops had deployed near Jisr
Turkey’s Red Crescent set up a camp in a shady valley for
Syrian refugees five weeks ago on the grounds of a unused tobacco factory on the
outskirts of Yayladagi, a sleepy village of 6,300 where many speak Arabic as a
first language and have families scattered on both sides of the border, which
snakes its way through verdant green hills.
In the past few days, the
population has swelled to the bursting point and the Red Crescent has been
building a second camp as hundreds more refugees continue to arrive, collected
by scores of mini-buses hurtling through the winding roads. The border itself is
marked only with barbed wire and a military road along the Turkish
Turkish police barred reporters from the camp, but women could be
seen hanging wash while children played between tents and older men wandered
Activists say the lack of effective international action to stop
the killings has prompted some protesters to consider using weapons to defend
themselves. In Jisr al- Shughour people recall a mass killing in 1980, under
Hafez Assad. Two years after that, many thousands were killed in the city of
Hama, when the elder Assad crushed an armed Islamist revolt.
the readiness of some opposition groups to take up arms, one activist who spoke
anonymously, said: “This thinking is especially prevalent in Hama.
are saying we are not going to let them massacre us as they did in
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay has called on
Syria to halt its “assault on its own people” and let a factfinding mission
investigate all allegations of killings on both sides.