Four refugees who were trying to get to the Turkish town of Kızıltepe from Al-Hasakah in Syria were killed in a mine blast on October 5 after Turkish gendarmes allegedly opened fire, the Mesopotamia News Agency reported.
The four were part of a group of 10 refugees that was noticed by the Turkish gendarmerie as they were attempting to cross into Turkey. While six of them were captured by gendarmes, three were left in an area where there is a border wall and wire fences. One of the captured refugees was allegedly handed a flashlight and told to search for the three refugees.
When he refused, he was beaten and told to cross the minefield to search for the others. According to a witness, the gendarmes fired shots closed to his feet to make him walk. When he started looking for them, the three refugees panicked and started running and triggered land mines. All of them died as a result of the blasts.
One of the detained refugees, A.J. (16), claimed they were beaten by the gendarmes as they wept their dead relatives. They were taken to a gendarmerie station, where they were kept for three days without food or water. The refugees claim they were threatened the whole time to not report what had happened.
A.J. said the man who was told to search for the others was his brother. “I kept asking for my brother, so they took me to the hospital to identify his body.” The bodies were taken from the field and put in a hospital morgue in Kızıltepe.
According to regulations the refugees were supposed to be taken to a refugee center in the city of Mardin, and there was no reason for them to be taken to a gendarmerie station. Authorities said they were detained at the station because there was no space in the refugee center.
A.J.’s lawyer said he was detained for three days without a warrant. “My client is ready to identify those who made them go through this ordeal.”
There have been numerous allegations of abuse of Syrian refugees at the Turkish border in the recent past. A Syrian family attempting to cross into Turkey was detained in the border city of Urfa and allegedly subjected to torture by members of the Turkish military in September.
Mari Haci, her husband Ahmet Al Hasan and their five children attempted to cross into Turkey from the Syrian town of Ras al-Ayn on August 9. They were detained by Turkish soldiers and beaten.
The officers took the $16,000 hidden in Haci’s underwear and continued beating her in front of her children. When her husband objected, the policemen started battering him. The family was later taken back to the border and dropped off in Syria.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) published a report in 2019 documenting human rights violations at the Turkish-Syrian border. According to the report Turkish border guards have been systematically blocking the entry of Syrian asylum seekers by shooting and beating them. In some cases the guards detained and denied asylum seekers any medical assistance. These acts have resulted in serious injuries and in some cases, death.
The HRW report also mentions that Turkish officials forced asylum seekers to sign forms they were not allowed to read and transported them to Syria. In July 2019 Turkish Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu denied that Turkey had deported Syrians but said that “anyone who wants to go back to Syria voluntarily” can benefit from procedures allowing them to return to safe areas. These safe areas were unspecified by the government. The report contradicts this statement, finding that Turkey has unlawfully deported Syrians to the Idlib Governorate, one of the most dangerous areas in Syria.
A report published by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights in 2019 said 422 Syrian civilians had been killed at the border by the Turkish gendarmerie since 2011.