We set on the road with journalists and deputies of the main opposition People's Republican Party (CHP) on Sunday to pay a visit to the "Apaydın Accomodation Facilities," which hosts fighters of the Free Syrian Army (FSA,) in the southern border province of Hatay.
Hurşit Güneş, a CHP deputy from the northwestern province of Kocaeli, said we could enter the camp, as they had acquired permission from the governor's office, but unfolding developments proved otherwise.
At the camp's gates, some 40 kilometers away from Hatay's Antakya district, the Turkish gendarmerie stands guard, but they seem to possess little initiative beyond opening and closing the entry doors.When we attempted to shoot photographs of the camp, in fact, FSA troops came out and harried us out of there, also attesting to the gendarmerie's relegation to a passive role in the camp, though we could still take a few shots in the nick of time.
A regional commander from the camp told us the strict measures governing acces to Apaydın were due to reasons of security, and that they did not allow photographs to be taken because the the families of the FSA troops in the camp still continued living in Syria.
The Disaster and Emergency Management Presidency (AFAD) also told us we could get into all the camps in the region, save for Apaydın, and it said nothing further.
The camps provide military drills, according to Abu Hussein, who said he was the commander of a small FSA contingent. The troops cross into Syria to fight in the morning and return back to Turkey at night, he added.
Al Qaeda militants roaming in Hatay?
And so, we departed from the camp to participate in the "Scream for Peace" event organized by the Yeşilpınar Municipality, while FSA troops kept us company until we exited the camp "to make sure we had left."
The Yeşilpınar Municipality was, in fact, planning to host the Ninth Daphne Festival in Hatay's Antakya district this year, but they abandoned the idea following the outbreak of the conflict in Syria, now raging right beside them across the border, and whose impact can even be felt in their home town.
The municipality then dropped the festival and decided to host the "Scream for Peace" event instead.
Among the people who took the floor on the first day were Erol Ekinci, the head of the Confederation of Progressive Trade Unions (DİSK,) CHP deputies Mehmet Ali Edipoğlu, Hasan Akgöl, Süleyman Çelebi, Hurşit Güneş and Refik Eryılmaz, journalists Fehim Taştekin, Halil Nebiler, Dinç Çoban, Ömer Ödemiş and Sinan Seyfettin, artists Hürdağ Aydın, Sadık Gürbüz, Orhan Alkaya, Ali Nafile and poet Mustafa Söylemez, as well as Emre Doğan, the head of the CHP's youth branches, Kemal Okuyan, a member of the Central Executive Board of the Turkish Communist Party (TKP,) Ali Kenanoğlu, the head of the Hubyar Sultan Alevi Association and Veysi Beysülen, the head of the Public Pensioners Union (Emekli-Sen.)
The participants all expressed a common desire for peace to prevail.
The attendants also questioned the reasons why access to the Apaydın Camp was barred, "what exactly lay hidden" inside and the conduct of the troops in the camp.
CHP Deputy Süleyman Çelebi claimed that Al-Qaeda militants were roaming in Hatay, while journalist Fehim Taştekin said an organization that invites foreign intervention and treads along sectarian lines is perpetrating treason against the revolution.
The event is also set to continue today with panels and concerts. (AS)