Turkish border guards routinely torture, kill and commit other human rights abuses on Syrians attempting to cross the border into Turkiye, Human Rights Watch has stated.
In a report released by HRW today, it accused Turkish border guards of indiscriminately targeting Syrian asylum seekers by preventing them from crossing the border through the use of excessive force.
According to Hugh Williamson, HRW’s Europe and Central Asia Director, “Turkish gendarmes and armed forces in charge of border control routinely abuse and indiscriminately shoot at Syrians along the Syrian-Turkish border, with hundreds of deaths and injuries recorded in recent years.”
Williamson stressed that “Arbitrary killings of Syrians are particularly egregious and part of a pattern of brutality by Turkish border guards that the government has failed to curb or investigate efficiently”.
The report comes over a month after Turkish border guards had “viciously beat and tortured a group of eight Syrians” who were attempting to cross into Turkiye on 11 March, killing two. Some of the border guards were arrested and are currently under investigation for their roles in the human rights violation.
Despite that, not enough is being done to curb the practice, according to HRW, citing data it obtained from an anonymous monitor as showing that 277 incidents had taken place on the Turkish-Syrian border between October 2015 and April 2023, causing at least 234 deaths and 231 injuries.
“Twenty-six incidents involved children, with at least 20 killed and 15 injured”, the report stated. “Significantly, at least 6 people who were not attempting to cross the border were shot dead and another 6 were injured”.
While acknowledging Turkiye’s generous hosting of large numbers of Syrians numbering around 4 million, HRW stressed that it does not excuse the use of violent force against individuals who attempt to seek asylum in Turkiye, even illegally.
The rights organisation’s report also highlighted Turkish authorities’ deportation of hundreds of Syrians who had long resided in Turkiye under the protection of authorities when they fled the ongoing conflict in Syria, using methods such as forcing them to “sign voluntary departure forms”. The group called on Ankara to “respect the principle of nonrefoulement” which prohibits asylum seekers from returning to areas where they are at risk of facing persecution, torture or other threats.