Tensions Rise As Syrian Kurds Flee ISIS Advance
ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:
It's ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Robert Siegel.
MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:
I'm Melissa Block and we begin this hour with the desperate flight of Syrian Kurds in the face of an offensive by Islamic State militants, or ISIS. In the past few days more than 100,000 Syrian Kurds have rushed over the Turkish border. That, as ISIS swept through a series of Kurdish villages in Syria.
NPR's Deborah Amos reports now from southern Turkey near the Syrian border.
DEBORAH AMOS, BYLINE: This Kurdish family of seven crossed the border three days ago from the Syrian town of Kobani. They could hear the fighting at night on the outskirts of town, says Zouza, who wouldn't give her last name. Terrified, she and her family walked to the Turkish border with no time to pack.
ZOUZA: My phone and my laptop.
AMOS: Your laptop and your phone?
ZOUZA: Yes, just that.
AMOS: She joined a wave of Syrian Kurds - an unprecedented exodus, says the U.N. Refugee Agency. In every neighborhood, on every street, Kurds quickly left their homes and headed for safety. But now they face an uncertain future.
ZOUZA: We come together. Now I don't know anything.
AMOS: ISIS has shown no mercy for minorities and on social media sites has stepped up harsh rhetoric against the Kurds. Reports of brutal treatment for civilians prompted the flight, says Zouza.
ZOUZA: (Foreign language spoken).
AMOS: When they kill someone they upload high-quality videos to terrify the others, she says. Some Kurds shelter with relatives already in Turkey, but most try to find a place in the Turkish border town of Suruc, nine miles from Kobani, also known as Ain al-Arab. Many are living in the open on the town square. Turkey is already struggling to cope with more than 800,000 registered refugees, but the latest wave of Syrian Kurds has unleashed deep tensions that led to outbursts in this town and clashes on the border with Turkish citizens; Turkey's Kurds, who want to join the fight in Syria against ISIS. On Sunday they hurled rocks at police who wouldn't let them cross. The police answered with tear gas and water cannons. Still, says Kurdish activist Mustafa Abdi, many Turkish Kurds have slipped into Kobani to fight the militants.
MUSTAFA ABDI: Five to 600 fighters, they entered to Syria, but the problem was the weapons - we need weapons.
AMOS: That's what Turkey fears - long at odds with its Kurdish minority - these Turkish Kurds will join Syria's militias then come back home and carry out attacks. But the ferocity of the ISIS advance is changing calculations and alliances. ISIS is right on the border, as Mustifa Aboddi explains, as we sit in a car where we can see Syria and Kobani across a flat field.
ABDI: (Through translator). Yeah of course; now they are on the border.
AMOS: Still, the strain shows as Turkey's security police tried to clear cars along this border road on Sunday to maintain control.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Oh, my God.
AMOS: A big water truck is just backing into cars.
AMOS: The crumpled cars are pushed to the side of the road. The truck driver wears the uniform of the Turkish security police. The enraged crowd pelted the truck with rocks, smashing the windshield while aiming for the driver. It's all part of the explosive tensions here, says Abdi, the Syrian activist.
MUSTAFA ABDI: They asked them by the...
ABDI: ...Loudspeaker to go back and they didn't. So it's the Turkish police's style.
AMOS: Turkey's complex domestic politics still drives emotions here between Turks and Kurds. Now more than 100,000 Kurds from Syria have crossed the border - a crisis that trumps all other refugee flows from Syria.
Deborah Amos, NPR News on the Turkish border. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.