CHARLOTTE – Iraqis escaping for their lives

Iraqis escaping for their livesTurkey is trying to cope with a growing number of refugees. It is not new for Turkey to all of a sudden experience an influx of refugees when a neighboring country experiences political turmoil.

Especially since the 1980s, the influx of refugees and irregular and transit migrations to Turkey — particularly from the Middle East and even from as far as Africa and Asia — has intensified.Since the founding of the Republic of Turkey refugees have come to Turkey from the Balkans and parts of Russia Many Iranians also sought safety here after the overthrow of the Shah in the late 1970s.

Over the years, especially since the post-Cold War era, individuals have been flocking to Turkey for refuge. Then, in the late 1980s, and again in the early 1990s, Turkey was confronted with a flow of Iraqi Kurdish refugees.

It is estimated that more than one and a half million Iraqi Kurds fled into the mountains bordering Turkey, Iraq and Iran around 1991. More recently, beginning in 2011 with the eruption of the civil war in Syria, the population along the southern border has swelled.

Those who have fled with some financial means and have managed to secure proper documentation have made their way to nearby urban centers such as Hatay, Antakya, Adana and Gaziantep, altering the demographics of these cities a bit. Nowadays, in the peak heat of summer, refugees from Iraq continue to cross into Turkey, heading to DiyarbakIr, Silopi and IIrnak and elsewhere.

Sometimes families have had to be left behind at the border because they have not had the necessary travel documents. There have been cases where perhaps the male had documentation but the female members of the family did not, so they have had to part ways and families split up.

Some of us may struggle with the idea of how a father or eldest son could cross into a new land and leave behind his wife and children or parents and siblings. Iand#39ve caught myself asking how people could do this but reminded myself that these are agonizing situations to have to face and one should not dare judge without ever having personally faced the challenge.

Those who arrive at one of the makeshift camps provided by the local Turkish municipality usually come only with the shirts on their backs. Few, if any, have personal items or any valuables.

Their lives have truly been uprooted but they are glad to be alive.Turkey is doing all it can to provide accommodation, primary health care, hygiene and basic care such as hot meals and water But the need is great.

Like any emergency situation, more hands on deck are needed and more funds are crucial. There is a shortage of medical personnel and social workers.

From the news reports we hear, we are aware of the crisis that the Iraqi people are facing in their homeland. Muslim Iraqi people who do not agree with ISIS and minorities such as the Yazidis and Christians are truly facing life or death situations.

There is a gripping account in Turkish by AyIe Arman in her article, andldquoOrada bir felaket yaIanIyorandrdquo (andldquoThey are living through a disasterandrdquo) in Hurriyet (August 21, 2014) about a Turkish woman, named Banu A who heard first-hand from a man at the bus terminal and others she met about the terrorizing of local Iraqi people in their homes by ISIS. Banu explains in her account to AyIe Arman that she heard from the refugees she spoke with that people, especially children, are hungry and thirsty and desperately need help.

Banu pleads for people to help these refugees. Reminding us that in this time of crisis we should lay aside the differences we have — such as religious beliefs, race or nationality — and not forget we are all human beings.

Some are in dire need, and those of us who can should do something.Because of Turkeyand#39s strategic geographical location, connecting Europe and Asia and sharing both European and Middle Eastern cultures and historical ties, Turkey is attractive to many and serves as a crossroads.

Turkey, as a nation, is in a difficult situation. It is trying to offer a helping hand to those in need as it is also trying to maintain a judicious policy toward refugees.

We must bear in mind that though Turkey is part of NATO, tension exists with the West, and between the West and Iraq, and between Turkish security forces and the PKK in the region.Turkey has worked hard to create no-fly zones and safe havens particularly for the Syrian refugees outside of Turkish territory and inside the refugeesand#39 country of origin.

Now it faces difficult new issues. One thing is for sure: Turkish policymakers continue to be challenged and resources are being stretched.

SOURCE: Today’s Zaman