Turkish village lives in fear of Syrian war



OVECCI KOYU, Turkey, Jennie Matthew- Sixteen-year-old Nazire was out in the fields, sitting under a tree when the shooting started. Bullets whizzed past her face and she was terrified.
The Syrian war was spilling into Turkey.
"If I had moved my head, I would have been shot and then nothing would have happened because they're Syrian soldiers and I'm just a villager," said the teenager in her pink trousers and flowered headscarf, in Turkey's southwestern village of Ovecci Koyu.



Turkish village lives in fear of Syrian war
"We were so afraid. There were very little children and even babies with us. We rushed back so quickly, we left our shoes behind," she said, standing in her mother's sitting room with a view straight across the border to Syria.
Residents say they live in fear from air strikes, shooting and shelling as rebels step up their nearly two-year battle against the regime of President Bashar al-Assad in northern Syria.
On Thursday, a car exploded outside a military barracks in the Iskenderun district of Hatay province, wounding four people, the Anatolia news agency reported.
Although it was not clear if the blast was linked to the war, cross-border fire killed five in the town of Akcakale on October 3, the first time that Turkish citizens had been killed in the conflict.
Since then, Turkey has systematically retaliated against shelling and fallen out with Assad, sparking fears in the village that things can only get worse.
When the bombardment starts, soldiers and the mosque advise residents to flee their homes, which could become targets, and shelter underground or behind walls.
Nazire's mother, Ilhan Doyman, says that the entire family lives in fear.
"It's very bad. Day and night we think about the fighting and we don't feel secure here. We can hear bombing and we can hear the sound of the planes so we can't sleep," she told AFP in the street outside her home.
Ovecci Koyu people are farmers. There is no high school so Nazire has worked in the fields since she was 12. Growing beans and red peppers is the village livelihood but residents say that's under threat.
"We run to the fields, quickly pick our peppers and go home," said Ilhan, pointing to a wall in the street where she crouches for shelter when the bombing starts.
"If I send my daughters to the fields, then they're in danger of being attacked and I can't send them to a city to work, so all we can do is pray to God," she said.
Turkey has welcomed 108,000 Syrian refugees and the village says it has shouldered a huge burden in sheltering and feeding some of them, many their own relatives.
Ahmet Rada, 28, is engaged to a Syrian refugee, but worries they might not be able to get married as she cannot return to Syria to complete the legal paperwork.
He points to the broken glass in his bedroom window from a Syrian attack and a building on the brow of a hill where he says the Syrians fire from.
"Three of my cousins lost their legs and one went blind. They stepped on mines in Syria that were very close to the border while they were crossing to escape the conflict two weeks ago," he said.
Another 15 of his Syrian relatives have been wounded elsewhere, he added.
Like his fiancee, many of the Syrians have been packed off from Ovecci Koyu into refugee camps. But some still fear they are outnumbered by the Syrians.
For all, the future is deeply uncertain.
"Even worse things might happen. We might go to war with Syria. I don't know. I don't want to think about it. Who wants to see such cruel things," said Nazire.
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Thursday, November 1st 2012
Jennie Matthew
           


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