Syrian refugees return home for Eid



Sun, 25 Jun 2017 - 12:00 GMT


Sun, 25 Jun 2017 - 12:00 GMT

Refugees - REUTERS - Umit Bektas

Refugees - REUTERS - Umit Bektas

CAIRO – 25 June 2017: This Eid, Syrian refugees are going on a one-of-a-kind pilgrimage. Adults, youngsters and toddlers are leaving their new homes in Turkey to find their old neighborhoods in war-struck Syria after Turkish authorities have allowed their passage in the spirit of the three-day Eid al-Fitr celebration.

For weeks before Eid, Syrians, with proper travel documents were allowed to pass through two border crossings, Cilvegozur/Bab al-Hawa and Oncupinar/Bab al-Salam. After passing through the Turkish checkpoints where they received a permit that would allow them to return, they headed to the Syrian checkpoint where they needed to pick a return date – a mechanism authorities developed in an attempt to avoid overcrowding on the return, Al-Monitor reported.

Ramadan celebrations in Syria have already received plenty of media attention this month with pictures of Muslims having iftar in the ruined town of Douma going viral.

For some, the return was not just about Eid celebrations; it was about family reunions.

Ismail Hadidi Jafar, 21, who left Syria two years ago, told The Associated Press, “I have a young sibling whom I’ve never met.”

Since 2015, Turkey, being among the countries receiving most Syrian refugees since the beginning of the crisis in 2011, has been attempting to curb the influx by building border walls and controlling entry. However, TRT World, produced by Turkey’s national public broadcaster, reported that Turkey regularly allows the passage of refugees to Syria and their return to Turkey each Eid holiday. Last year, around 13,000 had returned by the end of Ramadan and around 28,000 by Eid al-Adha, according to TRT World.

Even though there are currently no accurate estimates of the number of refugees who left to celebrate in Syria, Anatolia News Agency has reported based on the statement of unidentified Turkish officials at the Oncupinar checkpoint that nearly 92,000 individuals have crossed the borders at the checkpoint from the beginning of June through Tuesday.

“I can’t believe that I’m in Syria now. I can’t describe my feeling… The air smells different here,” Saleh Asfour, who was returning to Syria for the first time in three years, told Al-Monitor.

Travelers like Jafar and Asfour need to return back to Turkey by their designated date, officials from Hatay governor’s office told Reuters. Otherwise, instead of being allowed re-entry they will be subjected to the regular immigration process as new arrivals.



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