CHP member of parliament Safak Pavey recently returned from Syria where she and a group of Turkish lawmakers met with President Bashar al-Assad in an attempt to free foreign journalists believed held by his regime. Pavey crossed overland in Hatay and on her trip spoke with Syrian refugees. She learned that Christian refugees were being denied places in Turkey’s refugee camps; it is argued that this is for their own safety because of their association with the Assad regime. Instead Christian Syrians are left to their own devices without support and without being counted in the statistics of the displaced that now includes one in every ten Syrians. Christians make up nine percent of Syria’s population. In her press statement, Pavey recounts meeting a Christian family in Iskenderun that had escaped Syria several months ago but was not accepted into a refugee camp. Their money had run out and now they didn’t know what to do. The father, a man in his fifties, had run out of hope as well.
Pavey points out that because Turkey has taken a side in the war, fleeing Christians do not feel safe even in Istanbul. It is easy for Qatar and Saudi Arabia to involve themselves in the war because their borders are far removed and they can simply shut the door, she pointed out. The only thing they are losing is money. But Turkey has much more to lose, given its shared history and the social, ethnic and religious characteristics shared by their populations. Of course, Syria must be renewed, Pavey acknowledged, but she implied that this should not stop anyone from addressing it as a human tragedy, whether by asking Assad to release prisoners or by addressing the plight of refugees who are not perceived to be on the “right” side.