Turkish authorities have detained a group of soldiers who were filmed allegedly beating up and verbally abusing four young Syrians who attempted to cross the border illegally, the army said in a statement. The video, which was widely shared on social media and could not be independently verified, shows four Turkish soldiers kicking and beating the Syrians.
“The personnel in question were taken into custody and all administrative and judicial procedures have been immediately started against them,” the army said in a statement on its website late Sunday. The incident took place on Friday at around 11 am (0800 GMT) on the Turkish-Syrian border, according to the military. It said the Syrians who attempted to cross illegally were deported back after passing medical checks.
The video was apparently filmed by one soldier, whose shadow appears in the footage. It was not immediately clear how the footage had been released. One soldier asks the Syrians: “Will you come to Turkey again? Be quiet man! Don’t shout.”
One soldier is also seen repeatedly kicking a Syrian and then putting the boot in again once he is on the ground. The Syrians are seen groaning in pain in the video. And the soldier asks another man: “Why did you bring the refugees in? Are you a smuggler?”
Turkey is home to 2.9 million Syrian refugees, according to government figures, but the vast majority are scattered throughout the country rather than in camps. Ankara’s allies have warmly applauded the generosity shown by Turkey to its Syrian neighbours throughout the conflict although there have been signs of growing tensions recently.
Early this month, a Syrian refugee in Turkey was raped and bludgeoned to death by rock-wielding attackers just days before she was due to give birth, and her 10-month-old baby strangled, in a brutal double murder that sparked outrage. In the early stages of the conflict, Turkey had an “open door” policy for Syrians seeking to flee to the country but in reality the border has tightened considerably since then.
Rights groups, including Amnesty International, have accused Turkish troops of firing on Syrians seeking to cross the border. However Ankara has always denied such alleged abuses.