The Guardian reports: On small dirt tracks, several minibuses and cars are waiting, each of them going to different points on the border, but all accessing Isis-controlled territory. Little by little, the minibus empties, and when it arrives in a nearby border town, which the Guardian is not naming to protect those quoted in this piece, only two passengers are left.
At the bus station, two teenage boys immediately approach, offering to take the remaining two passengers to the wire.
“Only 10 [Turkish] lira [£2.60],” offers Ahmed*, a boy in ill-fitting, mud-stained trousers, his bare feet barely filling his worn-out shoes.
Syrian smugglers such as Ali and his friend Ahmed take both goods and people across into Isis territory. They witness horror, routinely, and shrug it off.
“Just yesterday Isis beheaded three FSA [Free Syrian Army] fighters,” Ahmed says, laughing. He drops to his knees and bows his head, re-enacting the scene he says he witnessed, making a gesture imitating a sword coming down on his neck with one hand. “They chopped their heads off like this!”
Another Syrian Turkomen who had just crossed back into Turkey nods. “We saw a crucified man on the way to the border. You have no idea what we see in Syria every day now. Our lives are like a horror movie.”
Ali says he has helped to carry the luggage of countless foreigners crossing the border to reach the self-declared Islamic State. “There were French men who took their entire families with them to Syria,” he recalls. “Once I carried a bag full of dollar notes across. The guy I helped was going to give it to Isis.”
Hundreds of foreigners are believed to have used crossing points like this, though the most high-profile recent cases – the three British schoolgirls who absconded to Syria last month – are thought to have crossed farther east.
Business is thriving, the smugglers say. “We carry weapons and ammunition across as well,” says Ali. “The drivers [of the minibuses] get 500 lira per bag.”
Neither of them are Isis supporters. “No, I don’t like them. But what can I do?” asks Ahmed, grinning. “It’s a job, and I need the money.” [Continue reading…]