Syrian Refugees in Turkey Long to Rejoin the Fight
KILIS, Turkey — The Kilis Konaklama Tesisleri is one of a handful of refugee camps where Turkey is providing for an estimated 24,600 Syrian “guests” — including Free Syrian Army members waiting for their wounds to heal so they can return to battle the forces of President Bashar al-Assad.
Residents encountered during a recent tour of the camp, half a kilometer from the Syrian border, questioned why the West, and the United States in particular, was not supplying them with arms to oust the Assad regime. Activists in the region have been able to move some weapons and other supplies into Syria, but apparently not on the large scale the rebels seek.
“Where are you from? America? Did you bring any weapons?” asked a small group of Syrian men huddled in the shade drinking tea.
A United Nations panel studying the violence said that Mr. Assad’s forces had violated human rights on “an alarming scale” during the past few months, but that the government was not the only side to have carried out summary executions.
The wounded men wanted to tell their stories, but some declined to be photographed because they planned to return and fight again and also were worried that their statements might come back to haunt family members still in Syria.
Mr. Assad’s forces “don’t want to kill me,” said a middle-aged man who would not give his name for security reasons, placing his hand on the shoulder of a young boy. “They want to kill our children” and snuff out future generations.
Lawyers and activists in Syria told The New York Times last week that Mr. Assad’s forces were ramping up arrests of men and boys from towns where the armed opposition had been rooted. And this week Human Rights Watch charged that the Syrian authorities were operating an “archipelago” of torture centers around the country.
Abu Staif, 19, one of the men in the group, had a soiled bandage on his foot. “I was in a demonstration in Tel-Arafat two weeks ago, and security shot me,” Mr. Staif said, referring to a town in Syria. “They weren’t the police, they were security forces, some in military uniforms and some in plain clothes. About 10 of us were injured.”
His friends, he said, helped him to cross the border. His wounds were treated at a Turkish hospital and he was transferred to Kilis, though he said he did not plan to stay long. “As soon as I am healed,” he said, “I will go back to demonstrate again and to fight.”
Nasser Abu Khaled, 55, a former restaurant owner, showed the visitors a gunshot wound in his back. “They came to my restaurant and asked me which side I was on,” he said. “I told them I wasn’t on either side, so they shot me because I refused to support Assad.”