“I find [Syrian President Bashar] al-Assad's actions utterly wrong and immoral. We are brothers with the Syrians. I am very angry to see tanks rolling into the streets of Hama, killing civilians,” said Emin Yıldırım (53), owner of a shoe store in the flourishing Balgat district of the Turkish capital. “I do pray that the situation gets better for Syrians,” he added.
Human rights groups estimate the death toll of an unexpected assault that started before dawn on Sunday to be in the hundreds. The number of confirmed deaths is about 150, though the causalities are expected to climb further. Turkey shares an 800-kilometer border with Syria and hosts thousands of refugees who fled from Syrian army operations in restless towns.
The response of the Turkish government and human rights organizations was harsh, with President Abdullah Gül saying on Monday that the country “could not remain silent” in the face of violence perpetrated during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
Others hold the Baath Party responsible for the killing of civilians. “I blame the Baath Party in Syria for these atrocities,” 59-year-old Sezai Nohut from the southern city of Fethiye said. The Baath Party, under Assad family control, has been ruling Syria since 1970.
There was also growing anger towards the UN, the US and the EU for not taking action to stop the Syrian crackdown. Some Turks believe the Western powers' lack of involvement in Syria is because the country does not have oil reserves.
“The atrocities will continue and world powers will stand by idly because there is no oil in Syria. Look at Libya and Iraq, where Western powers took immediate action. They are hypocrites, and that makes me angry,” said Mustafa Öz, a 42-year-old employee at a pharmacy in Balgat. Öz's feelings were also shared by Feridun Demirezen (46), who works in the photography studio next door. “It is all about the oil,” he said, stressing that he supports the efforts of the Turkish government. “At least the Turkish government is doing it for humanitarian reasons,” Demirezen added.
The younger Turks are much more pessimistic about finding a peaceful solution to the unrest in neighboring Syria. They are also angrier. “I am furious,” said Birsen Yalçın, a 25-year-old student in Ankara. “I am also pessimistic,” she quickly added, expressing her frustration for the Western powers' lack of action.