Syrian refugees rejoice as vital Turkish border crossing opens

Those gathered at the Bab Al Hawa crossing had not seen their families in years

Syrians living in Turkey were reunited with family members for the first time in years on Wednesday, as the Bab Al Hawa border crossing opened to people looking to cross.

The crossing had previously only been open to aid shipments, but those holding Turkish identification were able to register online for a three-month visa to enter north-west Syria.

“Today, I’m the happiest person in the world,” said a young Syrian man who had been living in Turkey for two years away from his family.

“I have been in Turkey for four years. It has been four years since I saw my mother, my father,” said another.

Even the scorching summer heat and long list of bureaucratic procedures could not affect their high spirits. Incoming Syrians smiled as beads of sweat ran down their foreheads and on to their masks.

Having endured displacement, the demolition of their homes and the deaths of loved ones, they remained optimistic.

“There is no place like Syria,” said another man in his 30s, who had also been living in Turkey for four years.

The crossing will remain open for arrivals from Turkey until the first day of Eid and will open for departures from Syria after the end of the Eid holiday. The first day of Eid Al Adha is likely to be around July 20.

Bab Al Hawa is a vital crossing for millions in north-western Syria, with aid bypassing regime-controlled Damascus and arriving through Turkey.

But the joy may not last. Russia, which backs the Syrian government, has the power to veto a UN Security Council vote scheduled for Saturday to extend the opening of Bab Al Hawa for aid.

Russia skipped a meeting on Tuesday to discuss the coming Security Council vote on the crossing.

US Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield called Bab Al Hawa “a lifeline to millions of people” in north-western Syria, saying that closing it could cause people to “starve to death”.

Updated: July 7th 2021, 7:53 PM