Syrians traveling to Turkey via the Bab al-Hawa border crossing are being subjected to harassment and abuse by young Turks, who are asking them for money to allow them passage. This is happening even to those in transit, with authentic official passports, and crossing the border legally.
Badie, a Syrian media activist, tells radio Rozana that his work requires frequent travel to Turkey and, therefore, passage through the Bab Al-Hawa crossing. His main problem are those people whose identity or job no one knows. They asked him for 50 Turkish Liras, under the pretext that they had allowed him to be "smuggled" into Turkey; despite the fact that he is holding a proper passport with the required visa, and all the official stamps to prove his lawful right to pass.
Badie adds that when he refused to pay the amount, several men surrounded him and subjected him to threats and insults. He was, thus, forced to pay them.
A young man from Damascus currently working in the Turkish city of Reyhanli, and speaking to Rozana on the condition of anonymity, tells how upon passing the Bab al-Hawa crossing into Turkey, a young man posing as a porter approached and simply toted the bags, then asked him to pay US$100, claiming that it was in return for having "smuggled" him.
The young man says, "I told the porter that I had already passed officially, and just had my passport stamped at the crossing. He asked to see my passport, but I knew that he simply wanted to snatch it away, and then blackmail me for its return."
He continues: "I refused to show him my passport. He shouted and several men showed up, and one of them told me that they had smuggled me, and that I was denying them their rightful pay. After much haggling and threats, one of them pulled a knife and put it to my throat. I had no where to run, and was only able to get out of their hands after paying 100 Turkish Liras."
One Syrian notes that travelers coming from Syria are making serious consideration of such occurrences. This has reached the extent of no longer travelling individually, but awaiting more travellers with whom to make the crossing, ao as to help one another, in the event of being mugged or beaten.
He adds that anyone subjected to such situation, will find no help neither from passers-by, nor from the Turkish Security forces, under whose gaze this theft and pickpocketing actually takes place. The young man expresses his wish that the Turkish authorities would find a solution to this phenomenon.