Ankara's decision to open its borders for Syrian refugees eyeing a return home to mark the upcoming Ramadan holiday received an overwhelming response. Braving long lines and sometimes pushing the metal barriers at two crossings, 114,000 Syrians have returned to their war-torn country since early June.
Fearing a stampede, Turkish officials stepped up security measures on the border as more Syrians rushed to cross into the country ahead of the holiday, which starts this weekend.
More than 30,000 Syrians crossed at the Öncüpınar border crossing in Kilis and 84,000 crossed at Cilvegözü in Hatay. Customs officials set up tents to protect refugees from the scorching sun while waiting and charities delivered meals for those breaking their Ramadan fast. Mustafa Jalil, who has been in Turkey since 2013, has not set foot in his home country since then. "I am grateful to the Turkish state for letting us back in," he told İhlas News Agency as he was waiting to cross into Syria with his three children at the Öncüpınar crossing.
Despite having taken shelter in Turkey from the ongoing Syrian civil war, some refugees from the war-torn country are willingly making the journey back home in spite of the security risks, to observe the Islamic holy month of Ramadan with the loved ones they left behind.
Official border crossings were closed in 2015, barring exceptions in cases such as serious injuries, to prevent a spillover of the conflict and to stem the flood of refugees.