In 2015 I worked at the Turkish/Syrian border. The Turkish GAZI barracks were home to around 260 soldiers with a mission: to protect the city of Kahramanmaraş and its more than 500,000 residents as part of NATO air defense. Therefore there are positions of the PATRIOT, the weapon system that was used here for the first time by the German Bundeswehr. Kahramanmaraş, 150 kilometers from the Syrian border, is within the range of the enemy missiles.
Protecting the city of Kahramanmaraş
Patriot means “Phased Array Tracking to Intercept Of Target”. It describes a weapon system consisting of a phase-controlled radar device, fire control station and launch devices. The PATRIOT anti-aircraft missile system is used to defend against aircraft, ballistic missiles and cruise missiles. The German Bundeswehr had sent two weapon systems to Turkey to protect the city of Kahramanmaraş. The German PATRIOT participation ended in January 2016.
Only some kilometers away: People upon people in front of the locked gate of the Kahramanmaraş refugee camp. They have arrived in a foreign country, in a country whose language they do not speak and whose culture they do not know.
Hope of survival
The newcomers slowly push their way through the security gate. Here they are checked for weapons, ammunition and knives. A refugee camp with almost 18,000 inmates of various ethnicities harbors numerous conflicts and escalations that can quickly get out of control. This is where those who had to flee quickly end up, those who couldn’t take anything with them except bare life and the hope of survival. Because it is always there, even if the fathers, the husbands stayed behind, were caught or murdered.
The men are waiting, there is no jostling. They wait patiently to be admitted. “Every time bombs fall in Syria, there are more”, says the AFAD manager, who wants to remain anonymous. AFAD is the Turkish authority for disaster and refugee aid. The refugees live in 3,500 tents. 1,000 displaced persons arrive every day. Around 40,000 other refugees live in the city in southeast Turkey, which itself has just over 500,000 inhabitants.
Experiencing the unimaginable
There are 21 camps here on Turkish soil near the border. The warehouse in Kahramanmaraş looks huge at first glance. A well-kept tent city with a primary school and playgrounds. There is no work permit. That stirs up conflicts with the Turkish population. Undeclared work is flourishing in the cities. Understandable when there is just under 30 Euro pocket money per person per month. 80 percent of this is taken over by UNICEF, the rest by the Turkish state.
Many of these people have trauma, they have experienced the unimaginable. Each family tent is equipped for five people with a small stove, heater, refrigerator and pallets to sleep on. Some bought carpets. They are put on the pallets to sleep on and are available in town.