Turkey has barricaded its border to Syria with the help of funding from the European Union. There are few options left for Syrians trying to flee the brutal war in their home country and those who do risk death.
When the Turkish soldiers opened fire, Ibrahim Khaled took his mother’s hand and ran. He recalls hearing the rattling of the machine guns and the screams of refugees who had been hit by bullets. “I thought if I stopped running now, I would be shot or arrested,” he says.
In their efforts to flee to Turkey from Syria, Khaled and his mother walked for hours in the direction the smugglers had told them to go. He says they walked, lost, through olive groves before reaching a Turkish village at dawn. Of the 60 refugees with whom Khaled had set out from the camp near the city of Darkush in the province of Idlib, in northwestern Syria, only a few made it over the border. The others, Khaled suspects, are either dead or back in Syria. “We were lucky,” he says.
He’s sitting in a newly constructed apartment on the outskirts of Mersin, in southern Turkey. He and his mother arrived here this past autumn. Khaled is afraid of the Turkish authorities, and he deliberated for a long time about whether he should speak to journalists about the violence at the border. He only agreed to be interviewed if his name was changed. “I want the world to know what is happening to us Syrians,” he says.