Syria ISIL crisis reuniting familes divided by frontiers
As thousands of mainly Kurdish residents of northern Syria flee to Turkey to escape the ISIL terror group, many are finding shelter with families divided by a decades-old border.

On a dusty plain split by barbed wire, 28-year-old Mehmet Emincek waits in the blazing sun for the third day in a row, hoping to make contact with relatives he has never met.

Mehmet is just one of many Suruc residents on the Turkish side of the Syrian border trying to house and feed desperate and terrified refugees fleeing the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant extremist group.

This catastrophe is reuniting many Kurdish extended families, divided for generations by the border which sprang up after Turkey was founded.

"I can host them for years," says Mehmet, who claims that more than 100 relatives from Syria have been settled in several properties belonging to Emincek family.

More than 130,000 Kurdish people, one-tenth of the total refugee number of Turkey, has spilled over the border over the last week, fleeing as ISIL captures Kurdish villages close to the frontier.

Even rumors of the terror group’s advance have been enough to drive people towards Suruc town, near Turkey’s southeastern city of Sanliurfa.

The number of the refugees has already exceeded Suruc's 100,000 population, causing noisy scenes of crowding, bustle and agitation in the low-income town. However, many residents of the town are rallying to help kin and strangers alike.

The Emincek family opened their home to their relatives, many of whom Mehmet was meeting for the first time.

He says his three of his grandfather’s siblings - half the family - were left on the other side of the border drawn up following the establishment of the Turkish republic in 1923.

"Only almost 20 of our relatives haven't crossed the border," says Mehmet, pointing across the frontier, where cars and livestock are crammed together as they try to pass a narrow passage carved out in the barbed-wire fence.

The Emincek family can afford to house so many relatives since the family runs a briquette factory. However, not everybody is as wealthy.

A shopkeeper at Suruc’s only marketplace told the Anadolu Agency that he was housing almost 30 people in his four-room house.

"I have five children. This has doubled in a couple of days," 40-year-old Ahmet Cetin says with a smile.

His colleagues in the marketplace, Salih and Mustafa, who have placed nearly the same number of their relatives at their homes, said they were sleeping at the rooftop of their building while their ‘guests’ use the house.

Kadir, a 38-year-old grocery shop owner near the town center, says the refugees he hosts were mostly women and children, who cannot fight against ISIL.

"The men are in there to defend the city," he says.

ISIL militants have captured villages close to the mostly-Kurdish city of Kobani in recent advances.

"It has been a massive rush. Which one of them will the state look after? We should take care of them," Kadir says determinedly.

"More than half of Kobani has been emptied. More than 200,000 people used to live in the central city. I talked to my distant cousins over there; it is deserted," he adds.

The Syrian border town of Ayn al-Arab – known as Kobani in Kurdish – has a population of nearly 400,000, raising Turkish authorities' fears of further waves of refugees.

But for Salih, a 52-year-old barber, strangers are also welcome.

"It is not OK for a woman to sleep in parks or in the corners of streets. So we opened our doors," said Salih, who even removed a rental tenant a week earlier to create space for the refugees.

Turkey opened its frontier on Friday to cope with a rush of Kurdish civilians fearing an attack on Kobani.

The Syrian civilians seeking shelter from the ISIL assault on their villages are being registered at a coordination center set up by Turkey's Disaster and Emergency Presidency upon entry to Turkey.

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Last Modified: 2014-09-24 08:04:57
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