Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu issued a statement on Monday defending the status of the Apaydın Camp, which hosts rebel Syrian fighters in the southern province of Hatay, as a forbidden zone. Minister Davutoğlu's comments come in wake of a failed attempt by deputies of the main opposition People's Republican Party (CHP) to visit the camp on Sunday.
The legal statuses of civilian and military refugees are different, Minister Davutoğlu said.
"The [refugees'] approval is also required to enter military encampments. It must be submitted that problems will arise unless a certain order can be established. It is normal for those taking refuge as security forces to be subject to special treatment. If [they] want to visit civilian camps, then [we] will provide every sort of convenience [for them,] but if there are worries and sensitivities arising from reasons of security, then different measures are called for. This is also in compliance with the norms of the United Nations (UN,)" he said.
CHP deputies can visit any camp they like, but the Apaydın Camp is "different," said Minister Davutoğlu, after a delegation consisting of CHP deputies Hurşit Güneş, Süleyman Çelebi and 12 other CHP members were denied access into the Apaydın camp in Hatay's Antakya district on Sunday.
"Al Qaeda types roaming about in Hatay"
"Dire things are happening in Hatay," Hurşit Güneş, a CHP deputy from the northwestern province of Kocaeli, had said after their delegation was turned back from the camp's gates.
"We wanted to visit the refugee camps, too. Mr. Governor told us the authority to grant permission lay not with [the governor's office] but with the Disaster and Emergency Management Presidency (AFAD.) The AFAD's head said all doors were open to us. The thought of the Apaydın Camp occured to me while we were headed off for Reyhanlı," Güneş said.
The AFAD's head, however, replied that Apaydın was a special case, and that he could divulge no information about it, Güneş said.
"We offered to keep the press outside [the camp,] but they refused. We asked to speak only to the officials without meeting the refugees, and they refused again. 'I do not think there will be any problems regarding your safety, but that is not a very safe place,' the AFAD's head told us," he added.
"Why is there a place with no security inside the borders of the Turkish Republic? Why am I not allowed inside if there are no weapons there? This place is under the prime minister's direct authority. A bearded person came up and gave a speech in Arabic while we were there. There were Arabic speakers among the delegation. This person had [apparently] said 'I am in charge of this place. I have 200 men inside, and we will cut them down to pieces.' The delegation was non-plussed," deputy Güneş said.
"That camp unfortunately confirms [what] Western sources [say] at this moment. That is not "Apaydın" ("Shiny Bright") but a place as dark as pitch. There are a bunch roaming about in Hatay, dressed up like the Taliban and the Al Qaeda, guerilla types with beards and camouflage. The public is yet to understand what this is all about," he added.
Government officials have rejected allegations that Apaydın serves a camp for military training and drills, but Abu Hussein, the self-proclaimed commander of a small rebel contingent, had claimed the opposite, adding that the rebel fighters were crossing into Syria to fight by day and returning back to Turkey at night. (EKN)
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