Turkish Security Troops Clash with Kurds, as Thousands Flee ISIS

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(Newswire.net — September 22, 2014)  — According to estimates by the UN’s refugee agency, at least 70,000 Kurds, most of them women, children and elderly people, have fled to Turkey since Saturday alone, and the total may be even higher.

Hundreds of Kurds showed up near the barbed wire border fence – some volunteering to join the struggle against IS, others asking to bring over aid to the refugees on the other side of the border.

As was witnessed by Western camera crews, Turkish border forces refused to let them pass, and as tensions mounted, attempted to disperse the rally with water cannons and teargas.

In turn, the Kurds set up barricades near the checkpoint, and began to throw stones at the uniformed Turkish troops.

Meanwhile, the border remained closed, meaning that thousands of refugees were unable to escape to safety, or obtain basic necessities.

The London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that more than 300 Kurdish fighters have crossed into Syria from Turkey lately.

Syrian Kurds have been fleeing to Turkey since Tuesday, when the Islamic State (IS, formerly known as ISIS) launched an offensive operation against Kurd-populated areas in the north of the country. The IS has captured at least 64 villages around the border city of Ayn al-Arab, which Kurds call Kobani.

The Kurds are an ethnic group in the Middle East, mostly inhabiting a region known as Kurdistan, which spans adjacent parts of Iran, Iraq, Syria, and Turkey.

They are an Iranian people and speak the Kurdish languages, which are members of the Iranian branch of Indo-European languages. The Kurds number about 30 million, the majority living in West Asia, with significant Kurdish diaspora communities in the cities of western Turkey, in Armenia, Georgia, Israel, Azerbaijan, Russia, Lebanon and, in recent decades, some European countries and the United States.

The Kurdish people are adherents to a large number of different religions and creeds, constituting one of the most religiously diverse people in the region. Traditionally, Kurds have been known to take great liberties with their religious practices, however, the majority of Kurds in the conflict areas are Sunni Muslim. 

“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,” Carol Batchelor, UNHCR’s representative in Turkey said.

The Kurds are in the majority in the autonomous region of Iraqi Kurdistan and are a significant minority group in the neighboring countries Turkey, Syria and Iran, where Kurdish nationalist movements continue to pursue (greater) autonomy.

A US-led coalition has attempted to counter IS with increasingly intense air strikes for the past month.