Ricochet is the best place on the internet to discuss the issues of the day, either through commenting on posts or writing your own for our active and dynamic community in a fully moderated environment. In addition, the Ricochet Audio Network offers over 50 original podcasts with new episodes released every day.
Russian bombing is prompting a mass exodus of terrified Syrians from Aleppo to the Turkish border. Credible estimates suggest 70,000 have fled; they’re the lucky ones: Those who remain are apt to be starved to death. The Syrian army and allied militias, including Iranian militias, will soon cut rebel-held zones of Aleppo off from Turkish supply lines. Russian airstrikes have been hitting villages north of Aleppo on the road to Turkey. Aleppo is on the verge of encirclement, which means hundreds of thousands of souls will be unable to escape. What we’re about to watch live, if we wish to, will probably be the largest siege since the Second World War.
The news that the Syrian government is exterminating detainees is on the front page of The New York Times today. You can read the details here. At some point the world will issue a teary apology to Syrians and there will be memorials to the Syrians and lots of children will hear about the terrible first half of the 21st century, and everyone will ask how this could have happened. If anyone ever says, “We didn’t know what was happening to them,” tell them: Shut up. We did.
There are now at least 2.5 million refugees from Syria in Turkey. Angela Merkel has been in Ankara to plead for Turkish help in reducing the influx of refugees to Europe. The EU has promised to give Turkey $3.3 billion if it can somehow make the refugees stop coming. In the past 48 hours, 35,000 Syrians have arrived at the Oncupinar gate at the Turkish border. Turkey has given refuge to civilians fleeing Syria throughout the war, but it’s come under very heavy pressure from the United States and Europe to seal off its border entirely. The refugee camp on the Turkish side of the Oncupinar gate has been largely shut for nearly a year. New arrivals have been sent to camps on the Syrian side, which Turkey claims are safe, for now. Turkish aid agencies are delivering humanitarian aid to these camps. Erdoğan has sworn that “If needed, we will let those brothers in.”
Another boatload of refugees drowned in the Aegean yesterday, including eleven children. This is now almost-daily news.
The Turkish deputy prime minister is warning that in a worst-case scenario, 600,000 will escape from Aleppo and wind up on the Turkish border.
And it’s like a bad joke: Just as every EU member state is doing its utmost to seal its borders so better to keep Syrian refugees out, Frederica Mogherini, the EU foreign policy chief, has called on Ankara to let them in. Turkey, she’s insisting sonorously, “has a moral if not legal duty to provide protection to these people.”
The Dutch Foreign Minister Bert Koenders (the Netherlands now holds the EU presidency), joined in the moralizing: “I look at these images of people standing at the Turkish border and I just wanted to underline the message people who are in humanitarian need should be allowed in.”
And the UN is joining the chorus: Turkey, it says, must open its borders to desperate Syrian refugees fleeing Aleppo, “in line with its international obligations to protect people fleeing conflict or persecution.”
I’m stunned by the moral blindness. The Turkish government has insisted — from the start, to its own very uncertain citizens — that Turkey has a moral duty to admit Syrian refugees. So I simply don’t know who Mogherini and Koenders are trying to persuade. Turkey closed its borders because Europe and the US pressured it to do so — chiefly because Europe doesn’t seem to be able to keep its own citizens from joining ISIS or turning into Nazis. And now Europeans are lecturing Turks about their moral and legal obligation to admit refugees?
Perhaps they should be trying to convince Europeans, instead? Or Americans?