Turkey seeks to complete the construction of 25,000 housing units in northern Syria by the end of this year, after completing 75,000 homes, according to what its Minister of Interior, Suleiman Soylu, announced on Sunday, during his visit to the region.
Soylu said, during the opening ceremony of a village of 600 housing units funded by a Turkish organization in the north of Idlib border province with his country, “75,000 brick houses were built in two years, based on the instructions of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.”
“We will, God willing, complete the construction of 100,000 brick houses by the end of the year,” he added.
The Turkish Emergency and Disaster Management Presidency (AFAD) supervises the construction of housing units financed by Turkish non-governmental organizations.
The Turkish authorities present the residential communities they are building as projects to serve the displaced. But it is also seen as a step in Ankara’s efforts to establish a “buffer” zone in northern Syria to which it will return Syrian refugees, 3.6 million of whom are on its soil.
On several occasions this year, the Turkish president announced a project to return one million Syrian refugees to their country.
More than 500 families have moved to the village, which was called “Musyad”, and about 100 more families will move in the coming days.
Soylu and officials of several Turkish organizations toured the village after cutting the opening tape.
He visited families who lived in the new homes, and opened the doors of some apartments himself, according to an AFP correspondent at the place.
Hadiya Al-Taha, 70, who moved with her daughter from a tent to the village, told AFP that “residential blocks remain better than tents, and there is no way to compare them.”
Four years ago, the elderly woman was displaced from her hometown in southern Idlib, leaving behind a spacious house and land that provided her with fruits, grain and meat. She moved from one place to another, reaching a camp near the Turkish border.
While she was busy arranging her simple possessions of mattresses, blankets and household utensils, she said with a sigh, “Our house in which we lived in the village remains the best and sweetest,” complaining about the lack of job opportunities, the bad situation and her dependence on food baskets provided by humanitarian organizations.
“Where will we be displaced next? We are full of homelessness,” she asked sadly.
Since 2016, Ankara, along with Syrian factions loyal to it, has launched three large-scale military operations in northern Syria, mainly against Kurdish fighters and to expel ISIS. The operations allowed it to control a large border area that includes several major cities.
In addition to sponsoring local councils it established to manage its areas of influence in northern Syria and the military presence of its forces, Turkey has doubled its investments in several sectors such as health and education.
These areas include Turkish post offices, communications, money transfers, and Turkish language schools. The local councils of the nearby Turkish provinces such as Gaziantep, Kilis and Şanlıurfa are affiliated with it.