Turkish Border Towns Hosting Thousands of Kobani Refugees

by Scott Bobb

October 23, 2014

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The fighting in Kobani, northern Syria, has forced some 200,000 residents to flee into southeastern Turkey. Residents in nearby towns in Turkey are trying to accommodate them but are worried about the future.

On a warm afternoon in Suruc, some 10 kilometers from the Syrian border, refugees from the fighting in Kobani gather, as they do every day, to exchange news about their hometown and the dwindling number of their neighbors who remain there.

The news lately has been better than several weeks ago, when Islamic State militants nearly overran Kobani. This caused most of Kobanis residents -- largely Kurds -- to abandon their homes.

Now they live in camps or with relatives in Turkey. They receive some aid but life is hard.

Like Kobani, this Turkish town also has a large Kurdish population.

Local shop owner Osman -- he will give only his first name C said the influx has boosted his business. But he takes no pleasure from that.

Business is good. But our people are dying there [in Kobani]. We are not happy about it. Their suffering is our suffering, said Osman.

The refugees needs are overwhelming, said the spokesman for the local Kurdish government of Kobani, Idriss Nassan, who has crossed over for a short visit.

They fled just with their clothes so they need everything. They need housing. They need food because we are very close to winter and the weather is changeable (changing) now, said Nassan.

More than one million Syrians have fled to Turkey in the past three years of civil war, straining the services and economies of their host communities.

Snack shop owner Mohamed said local residents are willing to help, but wonders how long the goodwill can last.

We are afraid. Our city is small. There are no jobs or companies. We do not have enough water. What will we do We currently have 20- to 30,000 refugees here. What will the situation be like It is very difficult, said Mohamed.

But they agree that their historical ties to the people of Kobani makes it their duty to help them as best they can.