Angela, have mercy

Since last year, Turkey has taken in over one million refugees. In Germany, Yezidi Kurds from Iraq are the most well-known group among these refugees, but they only make up a small proportion of the figure. They have found refuge in Kurdish-speaking towns and cities in Turkey, although they all speak different forms of Kurdish.

By Mely Kiyak

Most of the refugees who arrived in Turkey last year were fleeing from the Assad regime in Syria. But some were members of the Free Syrian Army, who came to Turkey for a rest or who brought their families to Southern Turkey before simply crossing back over the border into Syria. A year ago it really was that simple to flee to Turkey from Syria. As Prime Minister at the time (and now President), Tayyip Erdogan personally invited Syrians to find refuge in 'his' country. But after their arrival, some of these Syrian guests revealed themselves to be fighters with the al-Nusra Front, a branch of al-Qaeda. A year ago, when I was on the Turkish/Syrian border, Syrian Kurd refugees were fleeing to Iraq. The international news agencies were stationed in Istanbul rather than Southern Turkey (in order to report on the Gezi movement there), so the news of endangered Syrian Kurds was relatively new. But the problem is relatively old. At least more than 12 months old. When I was at Hatay airport in Southern Turkey in September 2013, officials there told me that Islamists could happily use the airport via special entrances and exits.

But the Turkish government is taking a different political view now that the majority of refugees who are trapped at the Turkish border are not Assad opponents but Kurds who are threatened by IS. The Turkish president was afraid that the refugees would include fighters from the PKK, the Turkish underground organisation, so he ordered the borders to be tightened up. The poor thing. He was afraid of the PKK, despite the fact that he had been negotiating with them just a little while earlier. Yet he didn't lose a night's sleep over IS, with their many distasteful branches and forerunner organisations.

Over the last few weeks, there have been a number of petitions and events in Turkey under the banner Open the corridor! Sections of the Turkish population are calling on their government not to seal off the Kurds from Rojava, an area which is being threatened by IS. By opening up corridors, it should be easier for anti-IS units to defend themselves. Basically, people want those who are fighting against IS to have the same chances and opportunities as those given to armed Jihadis. Along the border with Syria, people living on the Turkish side are in uproar and feel they are being victimized. They formed human chains that stood for days along the Turkish side of the border, chains which did not even break down at night.

It is easy to pass judgement on the Turkish government, its policies and its approach to the refugee question. But while we are rightly pointing the finger at Turkey, we read that in an asylum centre in Germany's Hessen region, a guard trod on a refugee's neck and forced him to lie in his own vomit. It is gradually dawning on us that Burbach was not an isolated case. The number of attacks on asylum centres in Germany has doubled since last year. If we are not careful, we will find ourselves in Amnesty International's annual report. A handful of refugees in our country is enough to ensure a knee-jerk reaction amongst our voters, parties and certain media as they move to the right. What would happen in Germany if it was faced with a million and a half refugees? I'm sure people would not be forming human chains asking for the borders to be opened wider for all and sundry.

When have we ever heard Angela Merkel say a word about the refugee question in Germany? When the cases of abuse came to light, she sent her spokesman to say that the government was appalled.

Oh, Angela Merkel, have mercy and open up a protective corridor so that asylum seekers from Burbach and other parts of Germany can flee to a free and independent life. Shame alone is not an adequate political reaction.

Europe: Closed Doors or Open Arms? Culture and Migration / EUNIC, ... (Hg.). – Göttingen: Steidl , 2015. – 300 pp. – (Kulturreport, EUNIC-Jahrbuch)

Europe: Closed Doors or Open Arms? Culture and Migration / EUNIC, ... (Hg.). – Göttingen: Steidl , 2015. – 300 pp. – (Kulturreport, EUNIC-Jahrbuch)
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Mely Kiyak is a journalist and political columnist. Her column 'Kiyaks Deutschstunde' appears regularly in Zeit Online and she writes 'Kiyaks Theater Kolumne' for the Maxim Gorki Theater Berlin. A winner of the Theodor-Wolff Prize, she has published a number of factual books on subjects as diverse as travel, gardening and death. She also writes for the theatre and appears on stage. With colleagues, she is the founder of Hate Poetry, an anti-racist show involving readings. She was named Germany’s Journalist of the Year 2014.