In Turkey’s Safe Zone in Syria, Security and Misery Go Hand in Hand
New York Times
In a tented camp on a hilltop above the city of Afrin, 300 Syrian families struggle to keep warm in the rain and mud. Displaced three times since they fled their farms near Damascus seven years ago, they survive on slim handouts and send the children out to scavenge.
“The situation is very bad, rain comes into the tent,” said Bushra Sulaiman al-Hamdo, 65, lifting the ground sheet to show the sodden earth where her bedridden husband lay. “There’s not enough food, there is no assistance organization, no drinking water.”
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey was widely criticized by the United Nations and Western leaders three years ago when he ordered Turkish troops across the Syrian border into Afrin, an action seen as opportunistic and destabilizing. Thousands of Kurdish families fled the Turkish invasion, along with the Kurdish fighters. In their place came hundreds of thousands of Syrians from other areas, who have swollen the population, taking over homes and camping on farming land.
Another Turkish intervention in 2019, further east in Syria, met still more opprobrium amid accusations of human rights violations under Turkey’s watch.
But as an end to the decade-long Syrian civil war still confounds the world, Turkey has become the only international force on the ground protecting some five million displaced and vulnerable civilians. Today, the Turkish soldiers are all that stand between them and potential slaughter at the hands of President Bashar al-Assad’s forces and those of his Russian allies.