Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Loose ends: Syrian refugee project in Adana, Turkey
A few loose ends/leftovers from Phase I of our “Reporting Syrian Refugees” project in Turkey earlier this month:

Jets , Assad, ISIS

As you’re interviewing refugees in camps or tent cities in the Adana, Turkey area, one of the first things you notice are the military aircraft overhead. These are from a U.S. air base about 20 miles from Adana. The jets, fighters, and attack aircraft were all flying southeast—towards Syria and Iraq.
The roar of these jets is unnerving, particularly when the human impact of war is right in front of you. As I was interviewing a former Syrian Free Army fighter who is now a refugee, one of these planes soared overhead. We both looked at the jet. I saw an opportunity to ask about U.S. military involvement in the Syrian conflict. The former combatant told me the jets do not scare him—they are “just like birds.” He approves of the sorties, saying through a translator that he wants the US to “save us from ISIS and Assad.” Another former fighter standing nearby nodded his agreement. He said that Syria is “confused—like hell.” He added that the U.S. should “be in charge.”
While these responses are predictable, they’re interesting nonetheless. I wish I had more time, and a translator dedicated to my interview, to sit down with these soldiers and hear more about their experiences and about their impressions of the effectiveness of the U.S. bombing campaign in the region.

Frenetic games of  soccer are standard fare at the Adana Camp, home to about 10,000 refugees. On each of my two visits, there was a main game on the camp’s regulation-sized pitch, but also several auxiliary games on the side—games without a goal, as nearly as I could tell. The players were men in their late teens and 20’s, many of whom looked very skilled.

For younger kids lucky enough to have a ball, there are rolling games of soccer that move organically from one area to another of the camp. Outside of the camp store, I briefly played in one such game, more or less holding my own with several 8-10 year olds. We seemed to have a good time, and there was much laughing—undoubtedly at my lack of skill. 

We wrapped up our seminars last Friday with a visit to a tent city of about 650 refugees. The seminar participants photographed and interviewed refugees about the difficult living conditions in the camp. Earlier, I had encouraged them to find counter-narrative stories that debunk the myths and stereotypes perpetuated by the Turkish media.

In all, Phase I of the “Reporting Syrian Refugees” project, sponsored by the US Embassy in Ankara, included two four day seminars. Two days of each seminar were devoted to reporting from the field. The participants, journalists and students, were receptive to the peace journalism message, and eager to employ their new skills. Phase II of the project will be a Peace Journalism Summit in May in Istanbul.

--ALSO SEE: Photo album #2--Of visits to refugee camp and tent city in Adana.

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