Syrian Turkmen flee to Lebanon's Turkish village

Ethnic Turkmen who have fled their homes in war-torn Syria have sought refuge in Kaweishra, a Turkish village in Lebanon.

Syrian Turkmen flee to Lebanon's Turkish village

World Bulletin / News Desk

For Syrian Turkmen refugee Mohamed Saeed al-Bakir, the small, remote Kaweishra village in northern Lebanon doesn't seem so different from his home village back in Syria.

"The people of Kaweishra treat us very nicely," al-Bakir, who came here with his three wives and 17 children after fleeing the fighting and bloodshed back home, told Anadolu Agency.

They have joined some 500 other Turkmens who have fled to the village from war-torn Syria.

"They're among brothers and sisters here," said Kaweishra Mayor Mustafa Khedr.

He asserted that they doing their best to provide Turkmen refugees with medical aid.

Anwar al-Dokerli, another Turkmen refugee, fled along with his wives and children from Syria's Hama countryside when fighting broke out there.

He considers the people of Kaweishra a second family for him and his children.

"This is how we feel now," he told AA.

"Village residents offer us what they can."

Hundreds of thousands of Syrians face tough living conditions in Lebanon.

Although UN refugee agency UNHCR says around 832,000 Syrians have come to the country, the Lebanese government has put the number at closer to 1.2 million.

Deplorable

Despite the hospitality and warmth shown by Kaweishra residents, however, the Turkmen refugees' living conditions remain as bleak as those of the roughly 830,000 other Syrian refugees the UN estimates have flocked to Lebanon to escape violence back home.

Al-Bakir, who fled along with his wives and children from Syria's Hama countryside when fighting broke out there, can only afford to rent a one-room apartment, in which he lives together with all of his wives and children.

But food is hard to come by and schools for the children are nowhere to be found.

"Very little aid arrives to this area," al-Bakir asserted. "We only hear about organizations that distribute humanitarian assistance here and there."

He went on to describe the conditions faced by Turkmen refugees as "extremely bad."

The onset of winter has added insult to injuries.

"Nobody can tolerate the biting cold in this area," said al-Dokerli, who has taken up residence in one of Kaweishra's shops.

Unable to work due to poor health, al-Dokerli expressed fear that his situation – and those of other refugees in the village – would become even more tenuous when the snows came.

There was a shortage of heating oil in the village, he complained, while electricity was almost impossible to find.

He called on international humanitarian organizations, including several Turkish ones, to recognize the plight of the Turkmen refugees.

"We are in desperate need of assistance from humanitarian organizations."

Khedr, the Kaweishra mayor, confirmed that conditions faced by refugees in the village were "tragic."

"This is especially the case during winter," he told AA. "The winter is very hard to tolerate here, especially this time of year."

Kaweishra at the heart of Turkey-Lebanon relations

Kaweishra Mayor Mustafa Khedr likewise hailed Turkish assistance to the village, saying Turkish contributions had helped improve living conditions in the remote region.

When the Ottoman Turks left Lebanon in 1914, the inhabitants of Kaweishra – most of whom were of Turkish origin – decided to stay on.

Kaweishra, located some 131km north of Lebanese capital Beirut, is home to some 2,800 people, mostly of Turkish origin.

The village has recently come to the forefront in light of stepped-up Turkish efforts to strengthen its relations with Arab states.

Since 2009, a number of Turkish officials have visited the village, including a 2010 visit by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Many Kaweishra locals have recently taken steps towards their homeland by applying for Turkish citizenship through the embassy in Lebanon, Khedr pointed out.

Last Mod: 06 Aralık 2013, 13:21
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