As the Syrian town of Tal Abyad taken by Kurds from Islamic State (IS) militants this week looms in the distance, one question troubles the Turkish residents on the other side. What happened to the defeated jihadists? Many locals on the Turkish side of the border fear some of the beaten Islamists may have shaven their beards, slipped across, and now be quietly living among them.
“Don’t film me smoking,” pleads Mustafa, a barber in the Turkish border town of Akcakale.
“It’s (the holy Muslim fasting month of) Ramadan. Daesh might see it and cut my fingers,” he said using the pejorative Arabic acronym for IS, which imposes a harsh interpretation.
Turkey has always vehemently denied accusations it has allowed jihadists to use the border as a transit point. It has given no indication that large numbers of jihadists could have joined Syrian refugees crossing the border. The governor of the Sanliurfa province, Izzettin Kucuk, said just two unarmed IS members gave themselves up at the border when thousands of refugees streamed across at the weekend.