A lively debate is going on in the French media, concerning a number of socalled "jihad" fighters of French nationality who have been entering Syria illegally to fight against Assad and his gang. They number in the hundreds, are all French Muslims and revolted against the bloodbath in Syria. According to French authorities and journalists, there is no structured or underground organization hiring French Muslim youth for a holy war to be waged against Assad, but a myriad of small groupings, sometimes two or three people only, who come together and volunteer to fight in Syria.
There is a legitimate fear among the population, regarding the possible implication of their youth participating in a terrible war in a distant country. This is understandable. What is less understandable is the fact that the name of the country that comes very often into the discussion and is pinpointed remains...Turkey. The television station France 24 aired a debate recently where Turkey was accused of letting freedom fighters crossing the border from Syria into Turkey to receive medical help and to find a safe haven for their families.
Turkey, as a matter of fact, has opted for an "open door" policy since the civil war erupted in Syria. A huge number of civilian refugees were saved when they escaped to Turkey. They number almost 1 million today. Their resettlement has been overseen by state authorities and 230,000 refuges live in camps, whose structure and management enjoy high standards according to the U.N. Almost every refugee from Syria is given, upon simply applying and producing an identity document, a tax number that allows them to find a residence, get a job, let a flat and get a "normalized" situation in an absolutely abnormal period. The Turkish government spends yearly $1 billion (TL 2.08 billion) just for the proper management of the refugee camps, without requesting foreign aid (which no one is keen to extend in tangible magnitude anyhow).
It is probable that some people among the hundreds of thousands who cross the frontier, could be "jihadists." Not only would it be criminal to stop the influx of refugees for fear some fighters could be among them, but also Turkey has been cooperating with France to stop minors from being smuggled across the border to fight in the war. The very recent apprehension of a French national in Turkey is blatant proof of this cooperation.
But the problem is not the absence of cooperation or goodwill. France did the same thing in 1939, after the civil war in Spain was lost by the Republicans against the insurgent army of General Franco. Huge numbers of Spaniards, together with the fighters of International Brigades, who were non-Spaniard volunteers fighting against Franco crossed the border at Hendaye, at Banyuls, through the Pyrenees Mountains to save their lives. That was the France of 1939, overrun by the Nazi army a year and a half later. No one has ever questioned the "open door" policy of France, who gave safe haven to freedom fighters against Franco during the civil war, who helped the underground resistance against Franco during his reign. This France is remembered with honor, dignity and respect. The France that did not intervene in the Spanish Civil war is not remembered with the same respect, at a time when fascist Italy and Nazi Germany were helping Franco, fighting on his side.
Turkey will not be remembered for having failed to help civilians in Syria, for fear of Iran and Russia fighting alongside Assad. The example of France in 1939 is guiding the policy of Turkey in 2014. This is worth remembering for some French journalists.