Syrian fighters nurse physical, emotional wounds in Turkish hospital
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Kasim Genco lies pale and in visible pain on a Turkish hospital bed close to the Syrian border, a bandage covering his left eye.
"I was sitting on chair when a mortar shell landed. I got shrapnel in my eye,” said the wounded Syrian rebel fighter. “What else do you want me to say? I'm in such pain, I can't even talk."
Genco and the group of wounded men around him in the hospital ward are the lucky ones. They managed to escape the hell in Syria, where Russian fighter jets have been pounding the area around Aleppo, sending tens of thousands of desperate civilians fleeing north to the Syrian-Turkey border.
The new wave of refugees -- including women and children -- has been massing at the border as Turkey, home to more than two million Syrian migrants, struggles to cope with the latest fallout of the devastating five-year conflict across its southern border.
With the border remaining closed, Syrians are waiting in the cold and rain in the no-man’s land between the two countries as Turkish officials provide mixed messages on the latest crisis.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said Turkey is "under threat," and pledged that "if necessary, we have to and will let our brothers in". But local officials in border towns swamped with migrants have been underscoring the difficulties of housing more refugees.
Turkey is providing essential aid to the latest wave of refugees and some of the injured have been taken to Turkish hospitals.
Too little, too late
But for the injured rebel fighters in this Turkish hospital, that’s too little too late.
"You want to show everyone how disabled we are? Russia is hitting us and the entire world is just watching," says Saddam Haccar, who was wounded by shrapnel.
As Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s forces, backed by a heavy Russian military offensive, launch a scorched earth policy to wrest control of Syria’s most populated city and the critical surrounding region, rebel fighters who have risked their lives for a cause are bitter.
“The opposition fighters need anti-aircraft missiles, ammunition and also food. But the priority is anti aircrafts," said a young Syrian fighter who declined to give his name.
But Musa Halebi, another fighter, hasn’t lost hope – or at least won’t admit it. “The Turkish president, if God wills it, will let everyone pass. Otherwise the world needs to stop Russian planes. When the strikes will stop, everything will get better," he said.
Erdogan is meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Ankara Monday as the EU attempts to stem the tide of refugees into the bloc while maintaining that Turkey is obliged to open its border under international law.
But until that happens, it’s a long, frustrating road to recovery for the injured fighters in this Turkish hospital as they witness the steady collapse of a rebellion they risked their lives for and the death, it seems, of all hope.
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