Gülden Aydın - Hürriyet / Şanlıurfa, June 23 () - As Syrians who fled the clashes between the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and Kurdish forces have started returning to Tal Abyad after the jihadists’ defeat, Kurdish militia have discovered a torture center and prison cells in the Syrian town.
Daily Hürriyet has seen a few square-meter cells with no ventilation in the prison just 600 meters from the center of Tal Abyad. The facility was apparently a depot before the ISIL occupation.
A special torture chamber stands in the middle, giving off a heavy smell.
A prison book left behind in the prison shows that most of the inmates were recorded as murderers and thieves. It is not hard to guess their ultimate fate.
“Rules of jihad” hangs on the walls of the prison, an interpreter translated.
Some 23,000 people fled to Turkey because of the clashes, Turkish authorities have confirmed. ISIL was beaten nearly a week ago, after which the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) and the Women’s Protection Units (YPJ), the military arm of the Democratic Union Party (PYD), closed the border gate at Tal Abyad-Akçakale so that it could clear mines and unexploded ordnance.
Local Turkish authorities confirmed that the YPG side of the border gate opened June 22.
The border gate from Turkey to Syria gate was opened at 10:20 a.m. on June 22 following an announcement in Arabic, before Tal Abyad residents rushed to the gate.
The crowd began passing through the gates under the tight control of Turkish security forces.
Some 1,300 people had passed the border as of noon. Some were seen crying as they bid farewell to their relatives who stayed on the Turkish side.
Small trailers carried loads of vegetables and fruits to the Syrian side.
“There are no fruits or vegetable in Tal Abyad” said a tradesman, the owner of the goods. “I am sending these goods to greengrocers there. This is just the initial delivery.”
Some 10 tons of eggplants, four tons of tomatoes, two tons of peaches, one ton of cucumbers and some cherries passed through the border.
As Arabs from Tal Abyad pass through the Akçakale gate, Kurds prefer the Mürşitpınar-Kobane gate further to the west in the province of Şanlıurfa because they initially chose not to stay with Arabs in Akçakale when they first fled, and moved to Suruç and its villages, where they have relatives and kin. Sources said some 1,000 Kurds passed the border on June 22, while another 3,000 others passed last week.
‘60,000 Kurds returned to Syria’
An official told Hürriyet that some 60,000 out of 200,000 Kurds who escaped to Turkey had returned by January this year.
“This number may increase” the source said.
Large groups of Kurds had fled Turkey during the ISIL attacks on Kobane, defended by Kurdish forces for four months last year, before the jihadists were defeated in January.
Turkish soldiers, meanwhile, have begun digging ditches by the border in Nusaybin in the southeastern province of Mardin.
The town stands directly across from Kurdish-dominated Qamishli in Rojava where a suicide bomb targeted security forces.
Syria’s civil war has turned more than 3 million people into refugees.
Turkey hosts some 1.8 million Syrian refugees, at it has become the world’s leading host of refugees. There are also around 7.6 million internally displaced people in Syria, according to the latest U.N. figures.
Turkey had expressed grave concerns over the Kurdish capture of Tal Abyad from ISIL, accusing the YPG of driving out Arabs and Turkmen, claims the group denied.