Sun. Jan 26th, 2020

A normal life in the zero zone of war, despite funerals

The explosions are almost continuous in Akçakale, a Turkish city directly attached to the Syrian border, in front of Tal Abiad, one of the hot spots of the Turkish offensive against Kurdish militias in northeastern Syria. But the inhabitants try to make normal life.

"We are not afraid," said Efe Halil and Ali, neighbors of a neighborhood that borders the old train track behind which a concrete wall, fences and, on the other side, Tal Abiad, the Syrian city of the large columns of smoke rise that stop the impacts of Turkish artillery and aviation.

Also from there comes a howitzer: yesterday, a projectile hit the center of Akçakale and killed an official and a baby from a Syrian refugee family.

Halil shows the video on his mobile phone: an old man lying on the ground, a pedestrian who listens to him, people taking injured people to cars … Although the situation is tough, it is no reason to leave the neighborhood, they say.

Ali and Halil are drinking soda at the door of a small open supermarket, although without a single customer in sight. The streets are deserted, many neighbors have left, "but there is no mandatory evacuation; those who have loved are gone," Ali insists.

Indeed, although warnings about the danger are heard from the loudspeakers from time to time, there is no forced evacuation, the mayor of the city, Mehmet Yalçinkaya, member of the government Justice and Development Party (AKP) of the country's president, confirms to Efe, Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

"The neighborhoods have not been evacuated, businesses have not been closed, life is still normal. Only, as a precaution, schools have been closed, because they are a place of agglomerations; vacations have been taken until Monday to protect children" , says Yalçinkaya.

The mayor participates in the funeral of the Syrian baby Mohamed Omar Saar, who, barely eight or nine months old, is buried as if he had been a Turkish soldier fallen in battle: in a coffin covered with the Turkish flag and the word "Martyr" .

Yalçinkaya explains that some 125,000 Syrian refugees have been living in Akçakale for more than eight years.

"We welcome them as guests. The deceased baby was from one of these families, he was born here. His brothers have been injured," Yalçinkaya tells the press before the mosque where the funeral is held between major security measures.

At the end of the ceremony, many participants raise their hands to shout first the religious slogan "God is great", and then those that are usually heard at funerals of dead soldiers in the fight against the Kurdish guerrilla of Turkey: "The country is not It divides "and" Down with the PKK, "the banned Kurdistan Workers Party, the active Kurdish guerrillas in Turkey.

The projectile was fired from the territory controlled by the Kurdish militias People's Protection Units (YPG), which because of its obvious links with the PKK make Ankara consider both groups as branches of a single terrorist organization. And none is very well seen here.

Before the Syrian civil war, Akçakale, a city of 113,000 inhabitants, was one of the gates of trade with Syria, until the YPG took away in 2015 Tal Abiad from local jihadist militias.

"When the Kurds took control, Turkey closed customs," Ali recalls.

He doesn't like Kurds: both Tal Abiad and Akçakale are of Arab majority.

"We all have family on the other side of the border," but four years ago there is no way to cross to see the cousins ​​and, less, trade with them, he laments.

However, Ali and Halil also do not show much sympathy for Syrian refugees: "Only cowards flee. If there was a war in our country, we would stay to fight," they say. Another friend raises his hand in the "greeting of the wolf", the sign of the Turkish ultranationalists.

Interestingly, even less sympathy they have for the president of the United States, Donald Trump, whose decision to withdraw US troops from northeastern Syria has enabled the Turkish offensive, launched last Wednesday.

"Trump is a bad person. In the morning he says one thing, at night another, you can't trust him. What he wants is to face us all, while he stays calm and earns money," says another boy sitting before the store.

The same animosity is seen at the funeral: the ceremony ends with hands raised to the cry of "Down United States."

Ilya U. Topper

. (tagsToTranslate) life (t) normal (t) zone (t) war (t) funerals

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