For Syrian Kurds, a Refuge in Turkey but Not a Home

For Syrian Kurds, a Refuge in Turkey but Not a Home

For Shamsa Tammi, a refugee in this city from the nearby Syrian town of Kobani, the men of the Islamic State were a scourge her family could not escape.

Her husband, a Kurdish fighter, was killed in a battle with militants from the group more than a year ago. Then last week, an Islamic State sniper killed her eldest son, Recber, who had stayed to defend their home. Troubles followed her family across the border, where the Turkish authorities detained another of her sons, along with dozens of other people accused of being Kurdish activists.

“They came to us,” she said of the militants, as she tallied the calamities and gazed at a photograph of Recber. There was possibly more heartache to come: Another of her sons, Ahmed, 15, said out of earshot of his mother that he planned to sneak back into Kobani, across the border, to fight.
The Islamic State’s assault last month on Kobani, a majority Kurdish town, drove out a huge number of the area’s roughly 400,000 residents, flooding Suruc with families and their belongings, anger and tales of hardship. The refugees have settled in storefronts, unfinished buildings and tent camps that fill as soon as they are erected, roughly doubling the size of the town, according to aid workers. Now, with the battle for Kobani settling into a stalemate, the squares and streets of Suruc feel more like a purgatory for the refugees than a haven.

The refugees here seem at once luckier and more tortured than the masses of displaced people from the wars in Syria and Iraq: Their homes are still visible from the border, a short drive away. On the daily pilgrimage to the frontier, where they join Kurds from all over Turkey, the refugees peer through binoculars, trying to make out neighborhoods under columns of smoke.

Marwan Ismail, one of the refugees, spent most of Monday at the border, a day that brought thunderous car bombings on the northern edge of the city by militants with the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL. “My house is O.K.,” he said, relieved, after returning to a cafe in Suruc.

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