Syrian refugees: Life outside the camps

Unwilling to live a life in captivity and hounded by the Turkish police

Urfa, Turkey – When civil war broke out in Syria, the conflict seemed far from us, the inhabitants of southeastern Turkey near the Syrian border.

But soon, many Syrians started leaving their country. Along the border, the Turkish government installed and organized camps to accommodate the massive influx of Syrians fleeing the bombs. In the province of Urfa many were placed in closed camps, supervised by the army who banned reporters and photographers.

Other Syrians decided to settle in self-made camps, in tents around the big cities.

I began photographing these “free” refugee camps at the beginning of 2013. I visited different camps on the hills surrounding the city regularly. Most Syrians I met told me they were Gypsies, “Karaçi” as they are called here, semi-nomadic people.

They told me that after fleeing the war in Syria, they did not want to be imprisoned in camps. They were unwilling to live a life in captivity, crowded on top of each other, without permission to come and go as they pleased.

However, some left these self-made camps because of hunger and cold to go to the Turkish government-supervised camp at Akçakale, 50 kilometres away.

At first, the Turkish authorities denied access to the camp. People ended up sleeping outside for several days. One day, the dozens of tents that were previously spread out on the hill had disappeared. The police and the army had forced the refugees to leave. The tents of those who managed to escape the Turkish police were burned.

Murat Yazar is a freelance photographer living in Urfa, where he is also president of the association of photography and cinema, MEFSAD. His photo exhibitions have appeared at The Kurdish Institute in Paris.

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