The death strip at the Turkish-Syrian border

Der Spiegel reports: Bashar Mustafa, 14, was guiding a family from Aleppo through the Syrian-Turkish border area and was still a few hundred meters from the frontier when he heard Turkish soldiers yelling through their loudspeakers: “Stop!”

Bashar suddenly heard the clatter of machine-gun fire and threw himself to the ground. He saw his cousin Ali, 15, lying motionless in the dust a few meters away with blood running down his face. He had been hit in the head with a bullet and Bashar wanted to rush over to help him, but the soldiers continued firing. He was forced to spend the next several hours hiding among the thorny bushes and only when the border guards stopped firing the next morning was he able to recover his cousin’s body.

Bashar is sitting in the shade of an olive tree in the fields of northern Syria recently and relating the story of his dramatic experience, which took place in early summer 2016. He has short, black hair and is wearing an old polo shirt. He has tears in his eyes as he tells the story of what happened to him and Ali. It is the kind of thing that has been happening to people at the Syrian-Turkish border almost every day the past several months.

In its fifth year, the war in Syria has reached a new level of brutality. With the help of Russia and Iran, dictator Bashar Assad has intensified his bombing attacks on Syria’s civilian population and his regime is about to take control over what is left of Aleppo. Thousands of people have fled the city in the past several days, but the paths to neighboring countries are largely blocked. France’s ambassador to the United Nations even warned recently of “one of the biggest massacres of civilian population since World War II.”

Turkey, which has taken in almost 3 million Syrian refugees in recent years, has sealed off its borders in the wake of the spring 2016 refugee deal with the European Union. Syrians who seek to enter Turkey via airplane or ship from a third country, such as Lebanon or Jordan, require a visa, but officials only rarely issue them. And the overland route is blocked. [Continue reading…]

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