National Geographic : 2015 Mar
Syrian Refugees 57 in Turkey. Another eight million or more are internally displaced within Syria or eke out a hand-to-mouth living in such fragile way sta- tions as Lebanon and Jordan. The war has bled into neighboring Iraq too, of course, where the zealots of the Islamic State have uprooted another two million civilians. All told, perhaps 12 million souls are adrift across the larger Middle East. Like the refugee crisis that festered during and after the Soviet-Afghan war of the 1980s—a Cold War contest that displaced and then utterly ignored millions of angry, hopeless people, spawning years of transnational Islamist terrorism—the political fallout in the region is unfathomable and will be lasting. “ This isn’t just about Turkey or Syria anymore,” Selin Ünal, a spokeswoman for UNHCR, the UN refugee agency, told me in the Kilis camp. “This is a problem that will affect the entire world. There is something historic going on here.” I had trekked to the Oylum mound in south- eastern Turkey as part of the Out of Eden Walk, a seven-year journey that is retracing the first human diaspora out of Africa to our species’ land’s end at the tip of South America. Along my trail through the Middle East, I had en- countered desperate men and women cast up everywhere, like flotsam, by Syria’s many-sided war. They picked tomatoes for $11 a day in Jor- dan. They begged for pocket change on Turk- ish street corners. Some I discovered squatting under tarps on the Anatolian steppe, escapees from the wrath of nationalist mobs in the cities. Their ragged children tracked my movements with hard, appraising eyes. The Oylum mound knuckles up from the heart of the Fertile Crescent—the ancient Levantine temperate zone where modernity was born. It In eastern Turkey, Paul Salopek leads his mule past the Karakuş royal tomb, built in the first century B.C. by one of the area’s many ruling states. When Syrians began to pour over the border 70 miles to the south, he and photographer John Stanmeyer drove down separately to report on the situation.