By Ali Murat Alhas
ANKARA (AA) – With the establishment of a safe zone in northern Syria with the aim of getting rid of the YPG/PKK terror group in the region, Turkey hopes to resettle a portion of the displaced Syrians currently living in the country.
Turkish military officials and their U.S. counterparts last Wednesday discussed details of the planned safe zone, saying that both parties agreed on turning the area into a "peace corridor" and that measures would be taken to ensure the return of Syrians forced out of their country by violence.
Since the eruption of a bloody civil war in Syria in 2011, millions of people had to flee their war-torn country. A total of 3.6 million Syrian people currently live in Turkey, with many looking forward to returning to their homeland.
– Returning home
Mohammad al-Saadi, 42, described how he longed for his homeland to Anadolu Agency.
"It has been over four years since we moved here [Ankara, Turkey] with my family. We are provided many opportunities, but we long for our homeland," he said.
Saadi said he used to live in the northwestern Syrian town of Idlib, but that he had to abandon it because of regular airstrikes by regime and Russian jets.
"You cannot imagine how difficult it is to sleep while you are listening to the sonic booms of fighter jets, explosions and gunfire," he said, adding that almost all Syrian citizens living in opposition-controlled regions suffered psychological disorders due to the never-ending war campaign of the regime and its allies.
When asked if he would consider returning to Syria once a safe zone was established in the northern region of the country, he replied: "It is not just me, there are at least a dozen [people] I know who would immediately return if that was the case. It [northern Syria] might not be my hometown, but it is part of my country."
– 'I don't want to be a foreigner'
Another Syrian in Turkey, Omar al-Maher said he used to work as a mechanic in Homs city until 2014. However, he was forced to abandon his home for Idlib after clashes between opposition forces and the regime broke out, before later coming to Turkey.
"One cannot describe how it feels to live under constant threat of death. We used to lead a modest life before [civil war], however, everything changed in the coming years," he lamented. "I even miss the difficult workdays I used to complain about all day long."
"My family and I would return home, it does not matter whether it is north or south [of Syria], if we had a chance. Turks have been good to us, that is a fact. However, I don’t want to be foreigner anywhere, Turkey or Europe. We just want to return, it is so difficult to be away from your homeland," he said.
– A chance for a normal life?
A Syrian woman aged 29, who spoke on condition of anonymity, claimed many of the people taking shelter in Turkey would return to their homeland once the territory was cleared of terrorist elements and Syrians’ security was guaranteed.
"There are people [terror groups] with ill intentions, they must leave first so that we can lead a normal life. Nobody would like to live in a place where bullets could target you any second," she said.
"All I want is to lead a normal life in my country, and raise my children without thinking about their security while they are out playing football," she said. "It is one’s right to live without fear, I am a human being, is it too much to ask for a normal life?"
Vanessa Tinker, an academic at the Social Sciences University of Ankara, argued that displaced Syrians could face initial difficulty while adapting to the region and that their security must be ensured to ease this process.
"Setting aside the living conditions, ongoing security threats are more troubling. Despite the agreement between Turkey and the U.S. Wednesday to create a 'safe zone', there has been no information about what this deal would consist of," said Tinker, an expert in conflict resolution.
She added that the relocation of Syrians in Turkey to northern Syria following an imminent operation should be meticulously arranged as a collision — between Kurdish and Arab populations — might trigger civilian unrest in the region.
According to UN, over 5.6 million have fled Syria since eruption of the civil war in 2011. Among the countries hosting Syrians, Turkey has welcomed the most with 3.6 of them within its borders. Other major host countries are Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and Egypt, in sequence of amount of Syrians hosted.
Turkey has promised a counter-terrorist operation on territory in northern Syria east of the Euphrates River following two similar successful operations since 2016.
In the last two years, Turkey’s Euphrates Shield and Olive Branch operations liberated the region from YPG/PKK and Daesh terrorists, allowing hundreds of thousands of displaced civilians to return to their homes.
The YPG is the Syrian offshoot of the PKK terror group, which is responsible for the deaths of nearly 40,000 people in Turkey, including many children, women, and infants, over more than 30 years.
By Agnes Szucs
BRUSSELS – The European Union has fully mobilized the €6 billion ($6.65 billion) operational budget for refugees in Turkey, the European Commission announced on Tuesday.
So far, €2.7 billion has been disbursed from the financial aid agreed by the EU-Turkey statement in 2016 and this number is expected to grow to €3 billion by the end of this year and up to €4 billion by 2020. The full amount is expected to be paid by 2025 at the latest.
Turkey is the largest host country for Syrian refugees and provides international protection to more than 3.5 million people who fled the neighboring country. The EU facility supports refugees and host communities by financing projects in education, healthcare, improving the infrastructure and developing the economy.
Currently, 95 EU-funded projects are benefiting 1.7 million refugees, including 500,000 children.
Negotiations are still ongoing for a new financial envelop for Syrian refugees in Turkey for the period after 2025. Last week, Commissioners Margaritis Schinas, in charge of promoting the European Way of Life, and Ylva Johansson, tasked with the Home Affairs portfolio, traveled to Turkey to discuss migration with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.