The government of Turkey is reporting that between 45,000-60,000 Syrian refugees have crossed the border in the past 24 hours to escape the Islamic State. The majority are from the Kurdish town of Kobane and surrounding villages, which is considered an important border town.
The border opened on Friday after Islamic State aimed for Kobane. A Kurdish commander reported the jihadists are only nine miles from the town. If Kobane is captured, the Islamic State will be in “control of a large strip of Syria’s northern border with Turkey.” The Kurds fled so they do not have to endure the horrific treatment Kurds and other minorities received from Islamic State in other towns.
“They [Islamic State] have destroyed every place they have gone to,” said Lokman Isa. “We saw what they did in Iraq and Sinjar and we fled in fear.”
“IS came and attacked and we left with the women but the rest of the men stayed behind,” said Abdullah Shiran, resident of Shiran, six miles from Kobane. “They killed many people in the villages, cutting their throats. We were terrified that they would cut our throats too.”
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights claims over 300 Kurdish fighters in Turkey went into Syria to protect Kobane.
“Islamic State sees Kobane like a lump in the body: they think it is in their way,” said the observatory’s leader Rami Abdulrahman.
Over 847,000 Syrians fled to Turkey since the Syrian civil war started three years ago. The West requested that the Turkish government close its borders due to terrorist threats, but authorities refused. The Turkish government pledged to support Syrian rebel groups against President Bashar al-Assad, which many believe has exacerbated the trend of Western jihadists crossing the Turkish border illegally to reach Syria. CNN even featured the secret jihadi route to Syria through Turkey as a key advantage the Islamic State holds in recruiting. In addition, there are more Turkish nationals in the Islamic State than any other non-Arab country.
In addition to deteriorating conditions in Syria, the symbiotic relationship between the Syrian and Turkish borders has taken a toll on civilians in the area. A Turkish nurse told authorities she is sick of treating members from the Islamic State. The men register themselves under false names, including top commanders, forcing medical personnel to treat them.
At a NATO summit, Turkey promised to help fight the Islamic State. But a week later, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the United States cannot use any air bases in Turkey to attack the Islamic State. An anonymous source told AFP that Turkey’s “hands and arms are tied” due to the 46 hostages Islamic State took after they ambushed the Turkish consulate in Mosul, Iraq. However, Turkey rescued the hostages in a “covert rescue operation” on Saturday. The government refused to share details on the operation.