Turkish Brute Force: Migrants Forced to Cross Greek Border at Gunpoint

By Adam Larson


By Adam Larson, Libyan War Blogspot

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Using Migration

From the last days of February, thousands of migrants appeared at the Turkish-Greek border,  with others crossing by sea, over the following week rising to the tens of thousands at least. These are largely young men, but also include women and children. It seems a relative few are Syrians’ many or most hail fron Afghanistan, with others from Iraq, Morocco, unclear. In one video clip, several are asked where from, all say Afghanistan. One says “We are waiting until we are thousands, and then we will ty to cross the border all together. This way they will be forced to open their border.”
https://twitter.com/john_wayne_gr/status/1235390236806524928 (primary source perhaps in time)

Turkish president Recap Tayyip Erdogan had just suffered a major defeat in Syria’s Idlib province, with at least 33 of his troops (and reportedly more than twice that many) killed in an airstrike the night of February 27. Being at night, it’s likely that was a Russian strike, not a Syrian one. Between that and a follow-on visit with Russia’s president Putin, and the US decision it would not back Tukey in some NATO-invoked defense over this, Erdogan saw something written on the wall. It might have involved the “fall of Idlib” and a massive influx of fresh refugees into Turkey – Syrian and foreign fighters, their families, others who insist on evading Syrian government control would want in. Ankara would be hard-pressed to block them out, but Turkey already hosts some 3-4 million refugees, largely Syrians displaced by the years of fighting Ankara eagerly participated in necessitating (flashback to 1st “refugee crisis” in 2011).

In general, as Erdogan saw it, Europe wasn’t helping enough in Syria, hadn’t fulfilled its promises on finincial aid, and then more specifically Idlib seemed doomed as of the morning of 28 February. That very day, this activist pesident stated executing a bold maneuver to make room for refugees in a dramatic way – put simply as “opening the boder” to Greece and thence Europe, and flooding it all at once by hook or crook.

“Erdogan claimed in early March the numbers of migrants at the Greek border – who include Afghans, Syrian and Iraqis – were far higher than figures provided by officials and reporters at the scene, saying “hundreds of thousands” were already there. “There will be more. Soon, this number will be expressed in millions,” he added.”

Turkish interior minister Suleyman Soylu later explained a million would soon pass the Greek border and then “it will cause European governments to fall, crash their stock markets, and destabilize their economies. And there is nothing they can do about it,” he claimed to believe.

After the first tens of thousands found the border closed on the Greek side and suffered a few reported abuses there, including one alleged shooting death (denied, deserves more study), “Turkey is sending elite special operations police to the border to stop Greek officers from driving back people who try to cross over to Europe, Turkish authorities said Thursday.” This means, in context, going to enforce their entry, to breach Greece’s borders with whatever undocumented people Turkey had flung their way.

This doesn’t seem to be going well for Erdogan, who faces stiff backlash from all of Europe, and only their most diehard supporters defending what’s being called a dangerous “game” that’s gone beyond the previous “blackmail.” But early in the ensuing spat with Greece, Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu boldly rebuffed protests from Athens: “Look who’s lecturing us on international law! They’re shamelessly throwing tear gas bombs on thousands of  innocents piled at their gates. We don’t have an obligation to stop people leaving our country but #Greece has the duty to treat them as human beings!”

This was early on 29 February, just one day in, these photos show thousands piled near the gate, with a few men in the front barely deterred by tear gas just as close to the police guarding the gate. Later we learn their side is also lobbing tear gas at the police, and Turkish police have come to do the same. Some videos show a whole team firing round after round as people follow with buckets full of tear gas refills, and others try and tear down the fences or sneak off to try and cross at an unguarded area along the river. A Turkish army vehicle tried to pull down a section of fence the night of March 6.


So that tear gas on innocents thing is not a visually obvious crime, and just how do these people get “piled” there so numerously and so quickly?

Facilitating the Migration

Turkish television TRT (Arabic) shows the routes people can now take by land (yellow) and by sea (blue), with no indication of where anyone might try and halt them. There seems no concern about documentation, or any valid obstacles. Erdogan says it’s open, and if people find othewise, he can become furious with Greece’s inhuman treachery. Also consider this proposed mass-movement at the height of the global coronavirus outbreak, where Iran and now Iraq are badly hit, and one route they were to take is up through Italy, suffering the worst outbreak in Europe.


The blue lines carry their own stories, but this post focuses on that yellow line to the last town, Erdine, at the borders with Bulgaria (no news there that I’ve noted) and Greece. There were numerous reports and accusations the Turkish state had facilitated driving “refugees” to the border, aside from many who took their own routes, like public transit to the last town and walking the final stretch. Greek state broadcaster SKAI filed a news report on the 28th featuring many interviews with arriving “refugees” who revealed many were from Afghanistan, and among other things that they had been provided free bus rides provided by Erdogan (as they saw it – officials anyway).

Ειδήσεις Βραδινό Δελτίο | Χιλιάδες πρόσφυγες – Έκλεισε το τελωνείο στις Καστανιές
SKAI.gr Feb 28

One man at least says “President Erdogan has arranged for fee bus rides, God bless his soul.” This and more from SKAI (w/translated subtitles) and other snippets compiled in a video “The truth about the crisis at the Greek border” posted by Stelios Pestas (Deputy Minister to the Prime Minister and Government Spokesman):

This same video has another man saying “The Turkish authorities drove us to the border and told us to cross,” and also shows a brief video of a line of four busses trailed by other, including apparent military, vehicles. Dated 29 February.

Turkish mayor Mustafa Yalcin tweeted an offer by “our munucipality” (unclear which) for free bus rides for “irregular migrants who want to move to European countries,”  giving two daily departure times (11:00 and 21:00) and an application phone number. (same video)

“Free buses to the Syrian migrants who want to go to #Europe, buses taking people from #Istanbul city to the borders with Greece and Bulgaria.” One minute video: Many seen boarding a bus, some with backpacks are asking questions of a woman in a tan hijab who knows more. Seveal reporters are on site, including from CNN.

Jared Wall: “If anyone wants a free bus ticket to Greece, the news is reporting there are busses from Esenler bus station. This is all quite…unprecedented.”

Many, especially able-bodied and adventurous young men, have gone voluntarily for the economic opportunities mentioned by a man claiming to be from Afghanistan (black hood, SKAI report), but he also says he and others (“we”) were jailed in Turkey for one month until “today” when the police not only released them but “police brought us here and told us that the gates are opened.”

Forcing the Migration?

There were transparent efforts to deny the official movement of “refugees.” For example, Gulnur Aybet, an adviser to President Erdogan is quoted as saying on or before March 2: “we have said people who wish to leave can do so on their free will, we are not sort of transporting them, we are not forcing them to go. They’re leaving on their free will. It’s exactly and entirely up to the European Union as to how they want to deal with people who are arriving on their doorstep on their free will. It’s absolutely rubbish to be blaming Turkey for this when Turkey has actually done so much for refugees.”

She’s clear the state is not transporting them, and also not forcing them. But why even bring up the latter – in fact four times? This might be a slip that they were both facilitating and forcing the migration, and she had advised they deny the latter and claim the migration was all by free will, if that issue ever comes up.

Everyone can see Erdogan’s regime has weaponized the refugees for political gain, but just how they were so effectively fielded might require further measures, and we may see glimpses of these in action.

Refugees forcibly transported to border, Ankara Bar Association claims
DuvaR English, March 4, 2020

“Around 300 migrants at Ankara’s Akyurt Repatriation Center were transported to the border against their will on the night of Feb. 29″ 

Ankara Bar Association’s Migrant Rights Center Chair Sadık Onur Gelbal said “We were informed by colleagues who witnessed it first hand that on the night of February 29, migrants were forced onto buses and involuntarily transported to the border.” “The migration management officials emptied out the repatriation center with six buses,” Gelbal said. The force used apparently wasn’t absolute – a reported seven somehow resisted and were still at the center. But the effort to clear the center apparently was total; only those few resisted, none were left without resistance, and the total number removed and presumably sent to the Greek border was given broadly as 250-300. 

One example of what could achieve that was an extra-convincing appeal to board the busses – backed with some coercion and a lot of deception – that a victim might later call a “police lie.” Keep this in mind.

One attorney reported their client had been forced to depart despite having an ongoing lawsuit. In fact that might have helped the decision to get rid of them.  Another layer “was kept from meeting with their client” during the operation, and found the center virtually empty when they went to complain later. Yet another was called in the middle of the night by a client saying: “they’re taking me away by force.” That attorney said “When we went there that night, no officials came to talk to us.”

A provided photo shows several busses lined up outside what’s said to be the Akyurt Repatriation Center on the night of the 29th. I’m not clear if this means the sun would next rise on Feb. 29 or March 1 – it sounds more like the latter, but these might be the same four busses we saw above escorted by military trucks, in daylight and reportedly on the 29th.

So people were allowed to go if willing, directly moved if willing, release from jail and moved, and others only because they were tricked or forced into boarding the busses. Now we turn to how some of them were and weren’t gotten back OFF the busses.

March 5, Mekut Mallet: Turkish police military beat and force refugees to cross Greek border at gun point

March 4, Manoto News: Turkish police threaten with weapons #پناهجویان To the Greek border (translated from Persian)

This is a fascinating video we’re grateful for and curious about, and we hope the videographer is safe. My guess is these few resisted a bit like the 7 back at Aykurt center and were finally given up on and taken back, where they were able to post this video and stay safe after that and forever.

A young man in black with sunglasses (labeled “policeman”), given yellow quotes, urges “Go on, get off the bus! You are going to the other side!” Another man in black-red sweater described as “military officer” then steps in and urges the people to disembark, explaining: “the Turkish military will take you to the Greek side by boat.” Some don’t want to go, protest that they have children who shouldn’t be forced to go on this dangerous crossing. They don’t want to go to Greece, a man says. The officer asks “why did you come here then?” That’s either not clearly answered OR answered with “unjust! Police lie!”

The military officer waves the driver off the bus, then loudly insists “everyone is going to get out now. I will beat up the ones who don’t,” pulling out his pistol as if to make the point. “Out! Get out!” he shouts, smacking their backs like cattle. When they still don’t all leave after a few seconds, he shouts louder and cocks his pistol near a boy’s head, as if to shift the message. “There is no going back from here on. Get out! Get out!” That boy and some others rush off, but others, including the person filming, remain. An apparent clock at the font of the bus had said 17:42, and the sunlight appears fairly low, later afternoon, of whatever exact day this happened (NOAA solar calculator gives azimuth: 246.68, elevation: 14.03 for this time on March 1st – an hour and 23 minutes before sunset. I don’t suppose that matters, but I did look it up).

The “military officer” has the a pistol with a Turkish flag decal on the handle’s butt. The  “police officer” holds (a taser?) and has a police nightstick on his side, the word POLIS on his trousers, and “Turk” on one shoulder of his black jacket, a “Grey Wolves” insignia on the other. Both officers appear quite young, probably under 30. They may be part of the new wave of military and police Erdogan has rushed into the field to fill the massive vacancies created in his frequent purges of the security sector for suspected “Gulenists.”

The Pestas Truth video includes a Syrian man still on a bus in the dark somewhere and filmed by another with “Advice to other Syrians in Turkey: don’t think of leaving through the (Turkish) state, because it is all lies. They throw us in the buses and they throw us in the lands.”

Another possibly relevant video was posted by a Αριστερά 2Κ and claimed to show “Turkish soldiers brutally beating up migrants.” The poor-quality video is shot at a long distance, largely through the branches of a tree. On-screen captions explain “immigrants who attempt to go back are violently beaten by Turkish soldiers & are pushed again towards the border.”


Some five possible soldiers in a uniform light color (green boxes here) are punching and kicking a man in dark clothes (red box), especially when he tries to move towards th left; they want him to walk to the right. At one point they trip him so he falls, but mostly he stands and refuses their commands.  Two people in the foreground are laying down and urged to stay down, until the soldiers are distracted beating the other, when they stand and pick up their bags. The video cuts there and they’re gone, apparently having run back to the left. The man the soldiers  were pushing manages to walk and then run through them and off the left side of the fame. Perhaps they had just given up on those few.

A pro-Erdogan reply denied that reading: “Lying became your character. These images are not from Turkey. Taken in Hungary.” Even after a couple of requests, that person offered no basis for this claim. And coincidentally, a fake news photo used by the Turkish side was from Hungary, 2015. And why were military men there forcing other people with backpacks there walk a certain direction in a field, at another time with barren trees?

Other Possible Compulsions
Video posted March 1 shows #Erdogan supporters who are mostly from “Grey Wolves” far-right & fascist organization attacking workplaces & homes of #Syrian refugees in south of #Turkey beating them & looting their shops. They attack Syrian refugees to force them to leave #Turkey & invade #Greece!
The militant extremist and Erdogan-supporting Turkish organization “The Grey Wolves” has been put into action.
They are now attacking migrant homes and businesses (vandalizing & looting) across south-western Turkey in an attempt to force migrants to pack up and leave for #Greece

Video includes shouts that include Allahu Akbar, others I don’t know. The two-finger Grey Wolves signal is widely displayed. Hundreds of them have converged here, streaming fom at least two visible busses that brought them here in a clearly coordinated campaign. Also note a lot of smoke in the area: something is burning (perhaps businesses?)

Another video from an upper floor shows two people being beaten separately by a small mob in the street below.  Samsun Haber.com video leads to the article going with it – March 2, by Tahir Ömer ÇOKLUK. The video is unavailable there, but preview images match, and it’s described: “A group of young Syrian refugees attacked in Samsun İlkadım Zafer Mahallesi. Some Syrian refugees were injured during the incident that citizens tried to separate.”

Initial view: a tweet mentioning “the families that recently had their businesses and homes destroyed by the Grey Wolves (extremist Turkish militants) and forced to leave Turkey” among the refugees, saying “Millions of Greeks understand their position.” (or should/could understand).

Similar street attack: “They first asked him if he is Turk or Not. When he responded that he is not Turk, then they started beating him!” A previous tweet claimed it showed a man beaten to death, which seems nowhere near true, though it is brutal.

However this seems to be a dated video; people are dressed in more summer clothes, no coats to be seen, as in the other footage. But this is a view of the kind of violence that’s happening again.
Similar street attack: They first asked him if he is Turk or Not. When he responded that he is not Turk, then they started beating him!

However this seems to be a dated video; people are dressed in more summer clothes, no coats to be seen, as in the other footage. But this is a view of the kind of violence that’s happening again.

In both these scenes, other locals intervene. In the latter, a single older woman tenaciously shields the young man being pummeled; however far they kick him down the street, she’s there again, trying to stop them. They try not to hit women, these thugs, but they sure as hell don’t let them affect their thugging. This was on display again a few days later on International Women’s Day, March 8. In Istanbul, police were sent to shut down the protest, and arrested 34 women who resisted. But the cops did let their shields take a few hits with no overt violence I saw, and it does seem they avoided using that dread tear gas (maybe because the country’s whole supply had been sent to attack Greek border guards?)


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