Turkey to address the needs of the Syrian refugees, thereby facilitating the safety of the refugees while ensuring the health of the local Turkish communities.
United Nations leader Ban Ki-moon has described the Syrian Civil War as having reached "appalling heights of brutality," ("UN predicts huge surge in Syrian refugee numbers: AFP"). According to official United Nations counts, more than 460,000 Syrians have fled Syria to find safety, and those numbers are expected to surge to 700,000 by the beginning of 2013. Most of the refugees have crossed over the border to Turkey and also to Jordan, but many others have gone farther -- to North Africa and Europe. With the crisis having already reached epic proportions, and growing bigger, the time for providing a Christian plan of aid is nigh.
There are many options for assisting the refugees. The most pressing is to help Turkey build enough well stocked refugee communities to temporarily provide support and solace. Turkey has taken in 100,000 refugees from Syria (Reynolds). Many of those refugees are crossing at Ceylanpinar, which also happens to have a substantial Kurdish community. "Turkey has long struggled with its Kurdish population, which makes up some 20% of the country," (Krajeski). Therefore, Turkey needs our help in organizing the relief effort. This service project will be designed with total sensitivity to the local Kurdish communities of both Turkey and Syria. Moreover, this project will be sensitive to the political situation vis-a-vis Ankara. After all, Turkey is doing the refugees a great service by allowing them entry; the government and the local border towns need our support.
Geographic Theme: Location
Turkey and Syria share a long border; at over 800 kilometers, it is also the longest land border Turkey shares with any of its eight neighbors (Ozey). Refugee camps for Syrians are dotted along the border, and the Turks are now starting to develop more official refugee camps or communities away from these border towns. Ceylanpinar is one of the easternmost refugee camps in Turkey. The majority of refugee camps are along the western part of the border, closer to the Mediterranean Sea. However, the Turkish government contends with so many refugees that the camps along the border are filled to capacity. This has necessitated the construction of refugee camps farther inland from the border. We believe the new locations for the refugee camps are generally good, because it is somewhat less disruptive for the Turkish people who live in the border towns. However, Turkey has also been forcibly removing Syrian refugees from the homes they legally rented in Turkey (Watson and Tuysuz).
Geographic Theme: Region
Turkey shares borders with Greece, Bulgaria, Georgia, Armenia, Iran, Azerbaijan, Iraq, and Syria. Turkey also has long water borders along the Black Sea and Mediterranean Sea. Because of the centrality of Turkey in the region, it plays a key role in regional political, economic, and social affairs. Turkey's role in the region has centuries of historic precedent, and Turkey's history is intimately linked with that of its neighbors. The Turkish Ottoman Empire defined geopolitical boundaries throughout the region, extending throughout the Balkans as well. Since the demise of the Ottoman Empire Turkey's status has remained relatively strong. "Turkey's tenuous geographical position could also be its good fortune, so long as it stays cool militarily, keeps its border open, continues to pressure the international community to take action in Syria, and remains patient," (Krajeski).
One of the most pressing regional issues with regards to the Syrian refugee crisis is the fact that some of the refugees are Kurds, or are crossing the border in Kurdish territories. When the former Ottoman empire territories were divided into modern nation-states, Iraq, Syria, Kuwait, and modern Turkey were created, among other countries that were formerly under Ottoman rule. Kurdistan was supposed to be one of those countries. "The 1920 Treaty of Sevres, which created the modern states of Iraq, Syria and Kuwait, was to have included the possibility of a Kurdish state in the region. However, it was never implemented," ("Who Are the Kurds?"). Because of this, the 15 to 20 million Kurds have no officially recognized state or homeland. Traditionally nomadic people, the Kurds are persecuted in all of the countries in which their people live: including Turkey, Syria, and Iraq. "Kurds have tried to set up independent states in Iran, Iraq and Turkey, but their efforts have been crushed every time," (Who Are the Kurds?"). About 8 million Kurds live in Turkey ("Who Are the Kurds?"). Like the Turks, Kurds are non-Arabic Muslim people. Kurdish language is more akin to Persian than it is to Turkish, and their culture is different even though Turkey's official policy since Ataturk modernized the nation was "not recognizing the Kurds as a minority group," and "outlawing their language and forbidding them to wear traditional Kurdish costumes in the cities," ("Who Are the Kurds?").
This project cannot be devised or implemented without due consideration for the sensitive political issues related to Kurdish self-determination. While Turkey is providing support for the Syrian refugees, it will be important to monitor the treatment of refugees that also happen to be Kurdish. If at all possible, our organization will work with the Turkish government to soften their policy toward the Kurds and perhaps aid the Kurds in their nationalistic struggle in the right to self-determination.
As we provide our support to the refugees, regardless of their ethnic heritage or religion, we will provide materials and resources in multiple languages including Kurdish. Our resource centers will employ staffers who speak Arabic, Turkish, and Kurdish. We will also supply Christian religious services to any Syrian Christian refugees.
Geographic Theme: Place
The border between Syria and Turkey is an "artificial" one, meaning that it is not created by a mountain range or other physical factor (Ozey). Because of this fact, the border has always been a relatively porous one. Cross-border trade has been healthy until the Civil War, as official trade routes have been cut off due to Turkey's support for the refugees and thus, the rebels, against the official Syrian regime. In many places along the border, there is only a fence, and Syrians can cross easily (Reynolds). We view the porous border as a benefit from a humanitarian perspective because the Civil War is detrimental to the Syrian people. Many of the refugees are Christian Syrian and we can provide them with appropriate Christian counseling and prayer services. We aim to help refugees communicate with family and get to their family members who remain any supplies, whatever they need. This will require an understanding of the geographic theme of place and space. We may even provide transport to the border from refugee camps, because in many cases, family members speak to each other from both sides of the fence, Syria and Turkey (Reynolds). Although it would be dangerous to do so, we will provide the means by which Syrian families that remain to send money and communicate with their relatives and vice versa, by providing free mobile phone services for the refugees. We will also work with Syrians in Syria who are willing to act as go-betweens, although that role would be the most dangerous of all.
One of our goals in the project is to develop services, resources, and infrastructure in the border towns for Syrian refugees. These services will include the means by which to build temporary structure. However, these services will also need to be located inland where the newer refugee camps are located. We will contribute our humanitarian services and resources wherever they are needed, working and coordinating with the Turkish government.
Because the border between Turkey and Syria is located in dry territory, water resources here and around the refugee camps will be scarce. Therefore, a volunteer specialist in sustainable water resources and building construction will be recruited as a consultant. The volunteer can provide our organization with the tools with which we can develop a water recycling program. Wastewater can be converted to "gray" water, which is then used to irrigate local plants. This way, we can plant local gardens in the place where the refugee camps are located. The refugees can source their own food, which will empower them and also make them less prone to the social and psychological malaise that can develop in the refugee camps. This will place less of a burden on local Turkish farmers, who cannot be expected to divert too many of their resources to the refugee camps. We can also learn sustainable building practices, such as using as many materials that are local. Paying attention to the geographic concept of place will give us a better idea of how to help the nation of Turkey develop sustainable refugee camps. It seems like these camps will need to sustain themselves for quite some time, based on the state of affairs in Syria.
Geographic Theme: Movement
Movement is one of the most important geographic themes for this project, because the essence of the problem…