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Syrian killed after being 'detained and beaten' by Turkish border guards

One man has lost his life and seven wounded by Turkish gendarmerie who allegedly beat the detainees and forced them to drink diesel
Zakaria Qastal, lying on a treatment bed in Bab Al-Hawa Hospital on March 12, 2023 (MEE/Ahmad Fallaha)
Zakaria Qastal, lying on a treatment bed in Bab Al-Hawa Hospital on 12 March 2023 (MEE/Ahmad Fallaha)
By Ahmed Fallaha in Bab al-Hawa, Syria

A Syrian man was killed on Sunday and seven other people were injured after allegedly being beaten and abused by Turkish gendarmerie while trying to cross the Syrian-Turkish border, Middle East Eye has learned from local sources.

According to Mazen Alloush, director of the public relations and media office at the Bab al-Hawa crossing, the Syrians were detained early on Sunday.

"We arrived at exactly one o'clock on Sunday morning, a number of deportees coming from Turkey, eight civilians, and they had been severely tortured by the Turkish gendarmerie," Alloush told Middle East Eye.

'[My] cousin died before my eyes while he was being beaten and tortured by the Turkish gendarmerie'

- Zakaria Qastal, refugee

"As a result, one of them died, and the rest suffered severe injuries and fractures, and they are still receiving treatment in hospitals.”

One of those detained said he was forced to drink diesel by the border guards, who had detained them for "illegally" trying to cross into Turkey.

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"The Turkish gendarmerie forced us to drink diesel fuel by force, and I was severely beaten with several tools, including electricity cables, sticks and iron skewers," said 16-year-old Youssef Muhammad Al-Harj who was displaced from the countryside of Aleppo.

He said the security services forced them to take off their clothes, took their phones and broke them, then filmed them before they started beating and "torturing" them.

"I lost consciousness several times. Several times they threw cold water on me so that I could wake up again and [they could] torture me again," he added.

The press office of the Turkish interior ministry declined to comment, when contacted by MEE, saying that “no information about the incident was available." The press office also said they were "not aware of the authenticity of the allegations.”

However, a source familiar with Turkey's border procedures regarding Syrians told MEE: “this was an individual case. There is no such regular treatment towards Syrians.”

According to the Violations Documentation Center in northern Syria, the number of Syrians who were killed by the Turkish gendarmerie now numbers 555 people, including 103 children under the age of 18 and 67 women since 2011.

(MEE/Ahmad Fallaha)
Traces of abuse to which Youssef Muhammad Al-Harj was subjected, at the hands of the Turkish gendarmerie, while he and his companions were trying to cross the border (MEE/Ahmad Fallaha)

In addition, 2,295 people have been injured by gendarmerie bullets while they were trying to cross the border. Other residents of Syrian border villages and towns and farmers have also been targeted by the gendarmerie with live bullets.

Zakaria Qastal, a 34-year-old displaced person from the village of As-Samra in the eastern countryside of Hama, told MEE his "cousin died before my eyes while he was being beaten and tortured by the Turkish gendarmerie".

"They were going to throw him in a bush near the border, but I prevented them and started screaming with all my might," he said, adding that he could barely walk as a result of the beatings he endured.

"It was our only sin that we were going outside Syria to search for work and a source of livelihood for our families. I have seven children.

"I was going to Turkey to secure work and a living for them. My cousin, who died as a result of torture, was only 19. He was going to search for a job and a new future."

Repeated abuses

Millions of Syrians have crossed the border into Turkey since the beginning of the Syrian civil war in 2011.

Although the Turkish government initially welcomed the Syrians as "guests", there has been increasing animosity towards Syrians in the country and politicians across the spectrum have exploited anti-Syrian sentiment and called for their return to their homeland.

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However, refugees have continued to come to the Turkish border, a situation exacerbated by last month's earthquakes which devastated much of Syria and southeastern Turkey.

The Violations Documentation Center added, in a statement, that Turkish security forces targeted Syrian residents of border villages continuously. Turkey has built a separation wall along its border, which is 911 km long, to prevent the entry of refugees, which the centre said resulted in continuous deaths and injuries of civilians.

Alloush said the Bab al-Hawa border crossing with Turkey received, on a daily basis, deportees from Turkish territory, including those arrested while crossing the border illegally.

"We call on the Turkish government to open an immediate investigation into the [torture] case, to find out the circumstances of the accident, especially since this matter has been repeated a lot in the recent period," he said.

This article is available in French on Middle East Eye French edition.

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