ISTANBUL 

Ten years since the beginning of the brutal civil war in Syria, the head of a major Turkish aid group said no lasting end to the country’s humanitarian suffering is in sight, but his group and the Turkish government are still doing some good.

“For the current situation, actually, there is no light at the end of the tunnel. But we have still opportunities,” Kerem Kinik, head of the Turkish Red Crescent or Kizilay, told Anadolu Agency, as this Monday marks the 10th anniversary of the civil war in neighboring Syria.

“For example, this month, there will be a Syria conference,” said Kinik, who is also vice president of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC).

“If the international community, if the superpowers, if the institutions make a strong commitment to conflict resolution and peace-building and resolution of this crisis, and if [they] set up a strong mechanism for protecting the human rights of refugees or IDPs [internally displaced persons] … I believe this will create a positive atmosphere among refugees,” he said.

“But,” he added, “I have to say that unfortunately, there is no proper mechanism for providing this kind of atmosphere or environment for refugees.”

According to Kinik, as March 15 marks a full decade of the Syrian crisis, “this is another signal for all mankind that this is the New World Order.”

“And there is no punishment or formulation [for a solution]. There is no intervention in the crisis. There is no proper mechanism for preventive measures for the crisis. And this is not good for the future of the world,” he explained.

Syria has been in a civil war since early 2011, since the Bashar al-Assad regime cracked down on pro-democracy protests with unexpected ferocity.

Hundreds of thousands of people have been killed and more than 10 million others displaced over the last decade, according to UN officials.

Human rights violations

Noting that during the war almost half of Syria’s total population left their homes and one out of four left Syria, Kinik said: “Over one million babies were born as a refugee babies outside of their home country.”

“We have witnessed many violations, human rights violations, international humanitarian law violations, violations of basic rights which should be under the guarantee of their own governments, but unfortunately, life, ownership, travel, or basic citizen rights have been violated by their own government and hostile parties,” he noted sadly.

Kinik added that they are working as monitoring agencies, from the United Nations to the Red Cross and Red Crescent societies and to NGOs, to hold back the tide of human suffering.

Syrians in Turkey

On the nearly 4 million Syrians living in neighboring Turkey – more than any other country in the world – Kinik said: “Since the beginning of the crisis, Turkey, applied an open-door policy to save lives. And Turkey saved millions.”

He noted that Jordan and Lebanon followed the same policy, and in these three countries a total of almost 5.5 million Syrians sought shelter.

“Turkey with government agencies, institutions, NGOs, and the Turkish Red Crescent’s capacities, provided cohesion services, basic humanitarian assistance to needy people,” he added.

Now in Turkey, “healthcare services are free for Syrians, education services are free for Syrians,” he explained.

On Turkey’s special legislation, the Temporary Protection Law for Syrians, Kinik said: “Through this framework, almost half a million newborn babies live in a safer environment with their basic rights, and they’re receiving assistance from the government and from Kizilay regularly.”

“Inside Syria, more than 2 million people have no access to school, but in Turkey, 80% of the Syrian refugees are able to access school, and in collaboration with European ECHO [the EU’s European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations] and UNICEF, we’re providing scholarships for 700,000 students.

“We’re encouraging their families to send their kids to school, not early marriage or the early labor market. And I have to say that they’re living healthy, safe, and happy in Turkey,” he added.

Voluntary returns

As around half a million Syrians have voluntarily returned to their country in recent years, Kinik explained how difficult the process can be as “the Syrian crisis is a protracted crisis.”

In most of Syria, he said, “there is no humanitarian law and no respect for the laws of war or other measures protecting human dignity and rights.”

But this is not the case in parts of northern Syria liberated by Turkey from terrorists, he explained, as there is a measure of safety and stability there.

“After some military intervention from the Turkish side, and providing some safe, secure spaces for them, almost half a million migrants returned to their own homes,” Kinik said, referring to Turkey’s cross-border military operations in northern Syria.

Since 2016, Turkey has launched a trio of successful anti-terror operations across its border in northern Syria to prevent the formation of a terror corridor and enable the peaceful settlement of residents: Euphrates Shield (2016), Olive Branch (2018), and Peace Spring (2019).

“In Turkey, the Turkish Red Crescent and government institutions provide humanitarian assistance to vulnerable people, but in the meantime, we’re providing almost the same services inside Syria for 4 million IDPs in the northern part of Syria in Idlib, in the northern part of Aleppo, and other sub-districts,” he added.

Stressing the public safety and authority in these parts of the country, Kinik explained that Kizilay is operating eight hospitals and dozens of medical centers there in collaboration with the Turkish Health Ministry.

“We have 3,000 medical staff working there,” he added. “The Turkish Maarif Foundation and Turkish government provide financial support to the cost of running the schools there.”

“We’re running orphanage centers and refugee camps’ bakery services, food parcel services, COVID-19 pandemic intervention, quarantine services, and treatment services and many holistic services like government public services.”

“So this atmosphere convinces people to get back to their homes, and we’re encouraging people who are living in Turkey to voluntarily take up the process to return,” he explained.

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