22 Sep 2014

Islamic State advance: 130,000 Kurds flee to Turkey

Turkey closes some of its border crossings with Syria following an influx of more than 100,000 Kurdish refugees in two days, fleeing an advance by the Islamic State.

Tense scenes have been developing at the Turkish border, with Turkish forces using watercannon and tear gas on crowds of refugees and reports Kurds had retaliated by throwing stones.

The Kurdish town of Kobani is under siege from Islamic State fighters and residents in the town said on Sunday the militants were nine miles away.

Kurds have fled reports of of horrific tactics being used by Islamic State in the areas it has captured as it closes in on Kobani.

“Rather than a war this is a genocide operation … They (IS) are going into the villages and cutting off the heads of one or two people and showing them to the villagers,” said Ibrahim Binici, Kurdish politician from Turkey who visited Kobani on Saturday.

“We now urgently need medicines and equipment for operations. We have many casualties … Isil killed many people in the villages. They cut off the heads of two people, I saw it with my own eyes.”

Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus said on Monday that more than 130,000 had crossed the Turkish border.

“We are prepared for the worst scenario, which is an influx of hundreds of thousands of refugees,” he said.

‘Debt of honour’

Kurdish politicians in Turkey have called on young people in the country’s mainly Kurdish southeast to head to Kobani to help push back Islamic State.

The Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) said: “Supporting this heroic resistance is not just a debt of honour of the Kurds but all Middle East people.

Kurdish Syrian refugee at Turkey border

“Just giving support is not enough, the criterion must be taking part in the resistance.

“Isil fascism must drown in the blood it spills … The youth of North Kurdistan (southeast Turkey) must flow in waves to Kobani.”

‘Life-saving support’

When the Kurds arrive at the Turkish border they receive food and water supplies, and are then processed into shelters.

“I don’t think in the last three and a half years we have seen 100,000 cross in two days. So this is a bit of a measure of how this situation is unfolding and the very deep fear people have about the circumstances inside Syria, and for that matter Iraq,” said Carol Batchelor, the UNHCR representative in Turkey.

“Quite frankly, we don’t know when those numbers will end, we don’t know what the future holds … It could well go again into the hundreds of thousands. We need assistance for core, life-saving support.”

Around 1.6m refugees have fled the Syrian civil war into Turkey, he UN has said.