A short holiday that gave an opportunity to thousands of Syrian refugees to visit relatives in their war-torn homeland ended. Though not excited as they were when they crossed the border, the Syrians gradually returned to Turkey, the only safe haven north of their country and which hosts the largest number of Syrian refugees in the world, at about 3 million.
More than 80,000 people went to Syria from Turkey for the four-day Muslim holiday Eid al-Adha (Feast of Sacrifice), known in Turkey as Qurban Bayram, that was observed last week. Through the Öncüpınar and Cilvegözü border crossings, Syrians traveled to relatively safe areas in conflict-ridden Syria where a civil war has raged on since 2011. Rashid al-Yousef, a student of medicine in a Turkish university, had a chance to visit his family one year after he arrived in Turkey.
"The situation is better in Azaz now. Everything is calm compared to the past," he says, speaking about his hometown liberated from Daesh. "It was a happy Eid with family. I plan to return and serve in my country once I finish my studies here," he told Anadolu Agency (AA) at Öncüpınar border crossing. Öncüpınar will remain open for refugees until Oct. 15 while they will be allowed to cross back into Turkey through Cilvegözü crossing until December. Some might opt not to return as about 9,000 people who traveled to Syria for the recent Muslim holiday Eid al-Fitr stayed.