Turkey on Saturday allowed limited media access to a camp sheltering Syrian refugees as the number of people fleeing bloody unrest in its Arab neighbor exceeded 10,000.
Journalists were taken on brief guided tours inside a tent city in Boynuyogun village in the border province of Hatay, the first time that media members had been allowed into the fenced camps.
Saturday’s tour came as an activist said that Syrian tanks had entered a village close to the border, whose residents had been supplying fleeing people.
Some 50 men staged a mini-demonstration as soon as the journalists entered the neat and well-cleaned tent city, and a choir of children, climbing atop slides in a nearby playground, joined the chants.
“People want the regime down” and “Liars, liars! The Syrian media is lying,” they shouted in Arabic.
“Thank you, thank you Erdogan,” they then chanted in English, referring to Turkey’s prime minister who said that no Syrian refugee would be turned away.
Pointing to an elderly woman with a bandaged leg, a man exclaimed: “They shot her in the leg. They beat her in the head and the back!”
Sitting inside a tent furnished only with blankets and mats, a couple with a five-month-old baby said they reached the camp after spending four nights under pouring rain on the other side of the border.
“I have a university degree but I’ve been picking up garbage for three years in Syria,” complained a man in his 50s.
Another vented anger on China and Russia who have opposed foreign interference in Syria: “To hell with China and Russia. They sent us into a massacre!”
In a television room, several dozen people watched the latest news from their homeland on an Arabic-language satellite channel, while several received medical care at a field hospital.
Others carried clean water in plastic jerrycans to their tents as a pick-up truck loaded with diapers drove through the camp.
Soldiers and officials escorted the journalists, frequently intervening to remind that pictures should not be taken without the refugees’ permission.
“People have concerns about their security. All these measures are being taken for their confidentiality,” foreign ministry spokesman Selcuk Unal said.
Earlier in the day, officials led several refugees to a compound at the camp’s entrance to speak to the media but often intervened in the exchange as an army of journalists scrambled to ask questions.
“They protect us here,” a veiled woman said through an interpreter.
A young man in his 20s said: “They treat us well here. We are surrounded by a fence because elements of the Syrian state may have a secret agenda and try to get information around.”
Officials say the Syrians are given three meals a day, medical care, hot water, and access to household equipment like washing machines.
Hollywood superstar Angeline Jolie visited one of the camps Friday in her capacity as goodwill ambassador for the UN refugee agency.
Also Friday, a source from a Syrian rights group said refugees at another camp, in nearby Yayladagi, launched a hunger strike to protest restrictions.
“They are protesting the lack of visits, their inability to protest against the Damascus regime and the absence of outside contacts,” said the source, a Syrian dissident based in Turkey.
The number of Syrians who have taken shelter in Turkey increased to about 10,100, Anatolia news agency reported Saturday.
The figure went up after another 421 Syrians, mostly women and children, arrived at the tent cities that the Turkish Red Crescent has erected in Hatay, it said.
On Thursday, Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said Turkey would keep its borders open to Syrians fleeing the violence and supply humanitarian aid to the thousands of people massed just across the border in Syria itself.
Many come from Jisr al-Shughur, a flashpoint of the anti-government uprising 40 kilometers (25 miles) from the Turkish border that was pounded by regime troops.