Fears and hopes in Turkish town scarred by Syria conflict

Akcakale border crossing Akcakale border crossing between is now shut

On the road facing the Syrian border, a single Turkish army tank sits behind a mound of earth.

Its sights point across 100 metres of scrubland towards the border.

The town of Akcakale has felt some of the effects of its neighbour's conflict. It has been hit several times by shells fired from across the border.

Muhittin Kaydi can see Syria from his front garden. He used to work as a money changer at the nearby border post.

Muhittin Kaydi Muhittin Kaydi says his children are now scared to play outside

But that post is now closed, and Mr Kaydi has lost his job. He finds it hard to reassure seven children that their home is safe.

"I tell them to calm down," he says, "but every time a door slams, they think it's an explosion - I swear. They are too scared to play outside."

'Up and down'

A single street away from the border, workers have put up a new blue gate at the Timucin family home.

Start Quote

We should not go to war with Syria. We help wounded Syrians. We're Muslims, they're Muslims”

End Quote Musa Vural Retired civil servant

On 3 October, five members of the family were killed when a shell landed in their yard. Drivers slow their cars as they go by in order to have a look at the house.

A few hundred metres away from the border in the centre of town, Mahmut Denli sits behind the counter of his jewellery shop.

Inside his shop, a small TV tuned to Bloomberg News stands on top of a safe.

"If anything happens on the border, we're the first to feel it," Mr Denli says.

"For the last month, things have been up and down. But I live here, I have my life here. How would being afraid help?"

Refugee's fears

For several weeks the sporadic shellfire kept the town's Suleyman Sah primary school closed.

"My three kids were really bored at home," Mr Denli says, "so I talked to the school's director to ask him to re-open it."

On Wednesday, the authorities decided that it was safe enough to do it.

Children are playing in front of the police station Police and the army have stepped up security across the town

In the main yard in late afternoon, dozens of children line up to be counted by their teachers.

One class takes part in a noisy relay race - children run to touch a wall painted with a character from the Smurfs.

Across the road, two black armoured jeeps are parked outside the police station. A group of female students from a religious school chats at an outdoor tea shop.

A young man called Nuri introduces himself as a Syrian refugee from a village just across the border.

He says that he came to Turkey 10 days ago.

But he chooses not to live in one of the dozen or so refugee camps that Turkey has organised for the more than 100,000 Syrian refugees who have entered this country.

"They have cameras everywhere," Nuri alleges. He fears that the female members of his family would be mistreated inside the nearest camp on the main road outside Akcakale.

Turkey stresses that it provides humane conditions for all Syrian refugees.

A group of older men sits on tiny wooden stools in front of a tobacco stand.

"When the parliament passed its bill last week (to authorise cross-border measures against Syria), the Syrians pulled back from the border," says retired civil servant Musa Vural.

"This gave us breathing space," he says, as he rolls a cigarette from a bag of tobacco at the stand.

"We should not go to war with Syria. We help wounded Syrians. We're Muslims, they're Muslims," he adds.

Additional reporting by Zeynep Erdim

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