The Washington Post - 03.03.2020

(Barré) #1



DOYRAN, TuRkeY — An invisible
border line bisects the skinny
Maritsa River, separating Turkey
from neighboring Greece — but
for a group of migrants on the
Turkish side, it might as well be a
concrete wall standing in the way
of reaching the European Union
The migrant route to Europe
that in 2015 erupted with people
desperate to get to a safe haven
had long been abandoned. Tur-
key shuttered its doors to Greece
following a deal with the E.U. in
2016, in exchange for E.U. funds
to help bear the financial brunt of
the migrant crisis: Turkey today
hosts over 3 million Syrians —
more than any other country in
the world.
But four days ago, Turkey
abruptly announced it was no
longer abiding by the deal. The
decision followed the death of 33

Turkish soldiers in Syria’s Idlib,
the last remaining rebel bastion
where Turkish-backed rebel
groups and Turkish armed forces
are fighting a major battle against
the Russian-backed Syrian army.
Almost immediately, thou-
sands headed west. Buses in Is-
tanbul’s migrant-heavy Fatih dis-
trict waited at meeting points,
filling up with mostly Syrians and
Afghans. Te xt groups were creat-
ed to provide details and answer
questions: Are Turks allowing
people without legal residency to
cross? (Yes.) Are there buses go-
ing from other cities? (No.)
But dreams of living in an E.U.
country with E.U.-awarded rights
evaporated quickly: People found
themselves facing off with a hos-
tile Greek police force that pum-
meled crowds at the border gate
with tear gas and rubber bullets.
A video circulated showing one
Syrian who had been fatally shot.
People tried to cross the river

instead, looking for weak points.
On Monday, amid barren trees,
a Greek guard sat in a watchtow-
er, making sure no people or
dinghies enter the water. Across
the border, a group of Syrian men
waved at him — 21-year-old Ab-
dul Malik Amour made a crude
gesture in his direction.
The night before, between 10
p.m. and 2 a.m., the same outpost
broadcast a message in Arabic
over and over again: “Please re-
turn home.”
Amour is one of dozens strand-
ed on the riverbanks of Doyran, a
village three hours west of Istan-
bul. Some people have been wait-
ing for four hours. Some have
been waiting for four days.
Each has a reason for seeking
refuge across the water, but most
say racism and a lack of job
opportunities are what’s driving
them away from Turkey.
Getting to Greece means
Amour could travel on to other

E.U. countries. Getting to Greece
means he could settle in a coun-
try like Germany and get benefits
and set himself on the path to
citizenship. But getting to Greece
is more difficult than he initially
thought — or more difficult than
he was led on to believe.
Originally from Aleppo,
Amour came to Turkey in 20 14
when he was 15. When the mi-
grant wave was at its high point
the following year, his parents
didn’t l et h im go. “They told me to
wait, to be patient, that maybe
things will get better, that maybe
we’ll return.” B ut after six years of
barely piecing a life together in a
country where he feels unwanted,
he jumped on the opportunity to
Sitting in a circle on the
ground, his friend nodded in
agreement. “We just want to live a
human life,” said Hussein, 23.
Like others interviewed for this
article, he declined to give his last

name out of fear of retaliation.
“We here are victims: victims of
racism, of war, of death, of the
Another 21-year-old in the cir-
cle shook his head slowly. “I’ve
been here for six years, and now
that I’ve grown up, I understand
the difficulties of this country,”
Mazen said. “A nd I’m ready — I’m
not going back home. I’m ready to
die here. I am not going back
Sami, 49 and a father of four,
feels gratitude toward the Turk-
ish government for letting them
in. But he says his 14-year-old son
was bullied mercilessly in school
— so much that they pulled him
out two years ago.
Still, Sami said, “Turkey has
only been good to us.” His wife
Abeer interjected: “But the Turk-
ish government should not have
opened the border when it knows
Greece won’t let us in.” She added
that she believes Syrians are be-

ing used as international pres-
sure to settle the issue of Idlib.
The family does not want to
cross illegally. Ahmed, 35, made it
across the river Sunday. He paid
to cross in a dinghy but was
caught by Greek police. They t ook
his money, c lothes, ID and phone,
he said. He was beaten up, he
said, showing a cut on his face. He
was held at a detention center for
two hours with many others be-
fore being driven back across the
“We don’t know what to do,”
Sami said. “Do we cross? Do we go
back?” The family sold their car
cheaply four days ago, hoping the
small amount will get them to
Germany or Finland where their
sons live.
“We’re living on the hope that
we go f rom here to our kids,” S ami
said. “We’re living on this hope,
but this hope seems lost. It’s lost,
and we don’t k now how to find it.”
s [email protected]

Syrian migrants trying to reach Greece are stranded at the Turkish border


U.S. military leaders cautioned
Monday that some level of vio-
lence is likely to continue in Af-
ghanistan despite a major new
agreement with the Taliban, as
uncertainty a bout t he t erms o f the
arrangement overshadowed ef-
forts to launch political negotia-
tions next w eek.
Gen. Mark A. Milley, chairman
of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, ad-
dressed reports of a bombing in
eastern Khost province, two days
after U.S. and Taliban leaders
signed an agreement intended to
lead to the withdrawal of Ameri-
can forces and peace talks among
the w arring Afghan p arties.
“To think that there’s going to
be an absolute cessation of vio-
lence in Afghanistan, that is prob-
ably not going to happen, Milley
said at t he Pentagon. “It’s probably
not g oing t o go t o zero.”
Milley said the military did not
yet know who was responsible for
the bombing in Khost, which
came as Taliban officials declared
the end of a week-long “reduction
in violence” period that paved the

way for the signing of the U.S.-Tali-
ban a greement.
The Ta liban denied responsibil-
ity for the attack. Afghanistan’s
Interior Ministry said three civil-
ians were killed and 1 1 were
wounded when a motorcycle ex-
ploded at a soccer field.
Defense Secretary Mark T. Es-
per, who held talks with Afghan
leaders in Kabul over the week-
end, suggested that U.S. officials
would not allow isolated a ttacks to
derail their attempt to shepherd
the parties toward negotiations,
which are supposed to begin
March 10.
“This is going to be a long,
windy, bumpy road. That’s going
to be the nature of this over the
next days, weeks and months,” Es-
per said, speaking alongside Mil-
ley. President Trump spoke with
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani on
Sunday “to congratulate him on
the recent important steps made
toward achieving peace,” the
White House said Monday.
Already in the days since U. S.
and Taliban leaders met in the
Qatari capital to sign the agree-
ment, w hich calls for the full with-
drawal of U.S. forces within 14
months, there are signs the three

main parties have differing inter-
pretations of c entral aspects o f the
deal. G hani on S unday questioned
the t imeline for t he r elease of Ta li-
ban prisoners held by his govern-
ment, which the deal said would
occur w ithin 10 days.
Esper said he instructed the
American commander in Afghani-
stan, Gen. Austin “Scott” Miller, to
begin the initial drawdown of U.S.
forces to 8,600, a process that is
supposed to take place within 135
days. Asked what would occur if
the Afghan negotiations were de-
layed, Esper said officials would
respond to events and challenges
as they arose.
Also Monday, the Ta liban an-
nounced it had resumed offensive
operations against Afghan securi-
ty f orces. Z abiullah Mujahid, a Ta l-
iban spokesman, said the “reduc-
tion-in-violence period is over.”
Mujahid did not address the
future of Ta liban attacks on U.S.
and o ther foreign f orces.
[email protected]
[email protected]

george reported from Kabul, and
Khan reported from Peshawar,
Pakistan. sharif Hassan in Kabul
contributed to this report.

Taliban peace deal won’t end all violence, U.S. military says, urging patience

lorenzo tugnolI for tHe WAsHIngton Post
Afghan forces i n Ghazni province in December. “This is going to be a long, windy, bumpy road... over
the next days, weeks and months,” U.S. Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper said of ongoing peace efforts.
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