| Philippe Alfroy |
MURSITPINAR, Turkey (AFP) – They look like mere shadows under the trees, but then the red dust clears and the huddled shapes reveal themselves as a handful of the tens of thousands of Kurds fleeing the Islamic State group in Syria.
Among the few hundred Kurds gathered under pistachio trees in Mursitpinar, just across the Turkish side of the border with Syria, sits Sahab Basravi.
He tells the story of his terrified flight from the town of Ain al-Arab, or what Kurds usually call Kobane, in a detached way – as if he were telling a scary story to his children sitting by him in the shade of the trees.
“When the Daesh (Islamic State radicals) attacked Ain al-Arab, we were frightened. They said in the mosques that they could kill all Kurds between seven and 77 years old,” he said. “So we collected our things and left, immediately.”
Sahab said he had not witnessed fighting or executions, but Islamic State’s reputation was enough to persuade him not to stay.
“They cut the throats of men and children,” he said. “They burn our houses, they steal our livestock. As for women, they rape them and take them to (headquarters in) Raqqa to sell them.”
“We left right away, but we were able to call those who stayed in our village and they told us the same things,” said another refugee, Hodel Basravi, from Tendar, a village near Kobane.
“The Daesh people didn’t touch us, but those who didn’t leave…” the young woman said, without finishing her sentence.
They were among a group that got across the border three days ago. Since then, they’ve been living under the trees just a few hundred metres into Turkey.
The UN refugee agency said about 70,000 Kurds have fled Syria for Turkey since Friday. Reaching Turkey might mean safety, but not the end of their troubles.
“We have received no official help,” said Hanna Memed Ali. “Turkish Kurds bring us water, fruits and bread, but that’s it,” the woman said. “Have you seen the condition we’re in? We want to return home as soon as possible.”
Others were luckier, being taken by bus to a Red Crescent health centre. However, soldiers there would not let journalists approach, shouting “Yasak!”, or “Forbidden!”
Nearby, at one of eight emergency crossings opened by Turkish authorities, the queues seen earlier of thousands of people waiting to get out of Syria had gone.
On Sunday there were only a few dozen people seated in the sun, waiting for permission to enter.
The delay frustrated Ismail Emer Ziravek, who crossed the border two days ago, and was now waiting for his wife and two of his children to join him from across the fence.
Three elder sons have stayed behind to fight against Islamic State.
Angry at the extremists, he was also bitter at the outside world, which he said had abandoned his people.
“For months these people have murdered our brothers and raped our sisters. All that is happening under the eyes of the world and the international community is not reacting,” he said.
“At least if they gave us weapons, we could defend ourselves.”