Russian strikes force thousands of Syrian Turkmens to flee

Around five thousand Syrian Turkmen flee to Syrian-Turkish border amid ongoing Russian air strikes, ground assaults by Assad forces

Photo by: AA
Photo by: AA

Russian airstrikes target Bayirbucak Turkmen region in Latakia, Syria on November 15, 2015

Updated Nov 24, 2015

Around 5,000 Syrian Turkmen were forced to evacuate their villages and flee to the Syrian-Turkish border Friday night following Russia’s intense three day air bombardment on their villages and the ground assault of forces loyal to Syrian regime leader Bashar Assad in the Bayir-bucak Turkmen area in the rural town of Latakia, local sources reported.

The assaults targeted 14 Turkmen villages, resulting in civilian casualties.

Syrian Turkmen who were forced to flee, sought refuge in any place which they deemed safe along the Syrian-Turkish border.

Some of the displaced were able to move in with their relatives in the neighboring villages, while others were forced to find refuge in makeshift tents set up under trees, President of the Syria Turkmen Association of Doctors, Muhtar Fatih Muhammed reported.

"The migration of people is so intense that we can say 40 villages have been squeezed into 2 villages." 

"We need an urgent supply of tents, beds, blankets and food sent to this region," added Muhammed.

The Syrian coastal province of Latakia contains a total number of 385,000 Turkmens - and in particular - 20,000 reside in Bayir-bucak village, according to statistics provided by the Center for Middle Eastern Strategic Studies (ORSAM).

Assad forces with the support of Russian air strikes have also expanded their operations and conducted simultaneous attacks on the Firinlik, Acisi, and Avanli regions in the Turkmen mountain area, which is under the control of Syrian opposition forces, according to witnesses who spoke to Anadolu Agency.

In early November, Russian air strikes destroyed several Turkmen shelters and ammunition depots in the Bayir-Bucak region of Syria - the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) reported - leading to an increase in the number of Syrians seeking shelter in neighboring Turkey.

Syrian Turkmen General Coordinator Samir Hafez, stated in an interview with TRT World that “we are losing the whole province… Russian strikes are targeting houses, hospitals, even our refugee camps which are inside Syria.”

“The shabeeha (Assad forces) are coming for a massacre.”

Since the start of the Russian bombing campaign on September 30, Russian air strikes have mainly targeted regions lacking DAESH terrorists, killing civilians and factions fighting Assad forces instead and clearing the path for Assad forces to expand.

Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said in a statement regarding the recent attack on the Syrian Turkmens, “this attack shows how barbaric the Syrian regime is, this is an attack targeting civilians, we know Russian warplanes participated in this attack.”

Davutoglu warned that “whoever attacks civilians and causes people to flee from their homes, they will be held responsible.”

Turkey’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Tanju Bilgic stated that Turkey has repeatedly warned Russian Federation Deputy Foreign Minister and President Vladimir Putin's Special Representative for the Middle East, Mikhail Bogdanov about targeting Turkmens in Syria.

Russia stated that it has hit 731 targets in the past 3 days, however there were no discussions regarding the deployment of ground troops.

TRT World’s correspondent Zeina Awad, reported that Assad forces have been advancing into many Turkmen villages mainly due to Russian air strikes.

TRTWorld and agencies