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Turkiye gendarmerie tortures 8 Syrians attempting to cross border, killing one

March 14, 2023 at 3:42 pm

Turkish army members of 1st and 3rd Border Regiment Commands guard the border near Gaziantep, Turkiye [Mehmet Akif Parlak – Anadolu Agency]

Turkish border forces detained, beat and tortured eight Syrian men attempting to illegally cross the Turkish-Syrian border a few days ago, forcing them to drink diesel and killing one of them under torture.

Since Sunday, pictures circulated on social media – verified by the official Bab Al-Hawa border crossing between Turkiye and north-west Syria – showing Syrian men lying on beds, severely bruised and injured, with one of the most discoloured bodies seemingly lying lifeless. They were reported to have been caught, detained and abused by Turkish gendarmerie while attempting to illegally cross the border.

According to the London-based news outlet, Middle East Eye, the Director of the Public Relations and Media office at the Bab Al-Hawa crossing, Mazen Alloush, told that, when arriving at the crossing “at exactly one o’clock on Sunday morning, [they received] a number of deportees coming from Turkiye, eight civilians, and they had been severely tortured by the Turkish gendarmerie”.

He confirmed that “one of them died, and the rest suffered severe injuries and fractures, and they are still receiving treatment in hospitals.” Alloush stated that “We call on the Turkish government to open an immediate investigation into the [torture] case, to find out the circumstances of the accident, especially since this matter has been repeated a lot in the recent period”.

One of the Syrians who had been detained, the 16-year-old Youssef Muhammad Al-Harj, revealed that the “Turkish gendarmerie forced us to drink diesel fuel by force, and I was severely beaten with several tools, including electricity cables, sticks and iron skewers”.

The Turkish security forces also reportedly made them strip off their clothes, confiscated and broke their phones, and then video recorded them before their beating and torture. “I lost consciousness several times. Several times they threw cold water on me so that I could wake up again and [they could] torture me again”, Al-Harj recounted.

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Another man quoted by the outlet, 34-year-old Zakaria Qastal, said that his “cousin died before my eyes while he was being beaten and tortured by the Turkish gendarmerie …They were going to throw him in a bush near the border, but I prevented them and started screaming with all my might”. He was then beaten so severely that he could barely walk afterwards.

“It was our only sin that we were going outside Syria to search for work and a source of livelihood for our families. I have seven children,” Qastal stated. “I was going to Turkiye to secure work and a living for them. My cousin, who died as a result of torture, was only 19. He was going to search for a job and a new future.”

Since the Syrian regime’s brutal crackdown on peaceful protests in 2011 and the subsequent ongoing civil war, millions of Syrians have crossed the northern border into Turkiye, either remaining in the country or travelling into Europe or elsewhere. While that open-door policy was relatively allowed in the early years of the last decade, Turkish authorities and border forces have grown far stricter in their control of who can pour through, even constructing a 911-kilometre-long border wall.

That policy, however, has led to Turkish gendarmerie and border guards often committing human rights violations against Syrians who continue to attempt to cross the border without permission.

According to the Violations Documentation Centre in northern Syria, cited by the outlet, the number of Syrians killed by the Turkish gendarmerie since 2011 now amounts to 555, including 103 children under the age of 18 and 67 women. In addition to that, live bullets fired by the gendarmerie have injured 2,295 people, also targeting farmers and residents of Syrian border villages and towns.

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