Syrian refugees attempting to join 'Caravan of Light' to Europe attacked by HTS militants
Syrians taking part in a migration convoy from Syria and Turkey to Europe have been attacked by security forces affiliated with the hardline Islamist group Hayaat Tahrir Al-Sham (HTS) on the Syrian-Turkish border.
HTS' General Security Organisation attacked dozens of people waiting to join the convoy and beat up media activists, confiscating their equipment.
Local sources told The New Arab’s Arabic-language sister site Al-Araby Al-Jadeed that approximately 400 people living in Idlib, including people displaced there from other parts of Syria, travelled to the Bab al-Hawa crossing on the Turkish-Syrian border to take part in the 'Caravan of Light' campaign, which aims to travel to Europe.
However, they were met by over 200 elements from the HTS General Security Organisation, who beat and threatened the Syrians seeking to enter Turkey to join the convoy. Photographers and media activists were also attacked.
Mohammed Al-Daher, a media activist, told Al-Araby Al-Jadeed: "We went today to Bab al-Hawa to convey the message of those civilians who want to travel to Europe as part of the 'Convoy of Light' [another name for the campaign] but HTS elements attacked us and tried to steal the equipment we used to cover the event."
Ahmad Falaha, a photographer, uploaded a video on social media documenting his beating by HTS militants.
The beating of media activists and refugees by HTS forces was denounced by the Syrian Media Association in a statement on Monday.
The 'Caravan of Light' was announced last week, partly in response to growing racism against Syrian refugees in Turkey.
Activists have estimated that around 40,000 people are preparing to join it. Organisers have said that the migrants will be split into small groups of 50 people to avoid being attacked or detained.
Turkey hosts approximately 3.7 million Syrian refugees but a deteriorating economic situation in the country has coincided with an increase in xenophobia and racism. Many refugees in Turkey, including Syrians, have been attacked or killed.
Idlib province, the last remaining area of Syria held by anti-Assad rebels, hosts approximately 2 million internally displaced people.
The organisers of the caravan say that Turkey and Idlib province cannot support refugees and IDPs alone and Europe must shoulder some of the burden.