Simon Jacob, Globalo’s Chief Foreign Correspondent and Initiator of the Globalo Youth Peacemaker Tour reporting from Mardin province, Turkey.
For $2000 Dollars everybody can become a Syrian. With a real Syrian passport, bought on the black market in Turkey. One of the attackers in Paris carried a Syrian passport. Was he really Syrian, or did he merely buy identification?
About 250 kilometers west of Mardin lies Sanliurfa, which Christians in the region know as the historical town of Urfa.
Just days ago, two young Syrians were beheaded here for secretly reporting news to the outside world from Raqqa, the Islamic State’s informal capital. Raqqa is located 150 kilometers south of Sanliurfa.
Punishment in the Islamic State is swift and draconic. Beheadings are a daily routine. Along the Turkish-Syrian border, ISIS has established a thriving enterprise. Smuggling of weapons and other goods, extortion, kidnappings, business is booming. An AK 47, the terrorists’ favorite assault rifle, can be had for $500-600. I am told by locals, that fighters from Iraq and Syria also come here to shop.
Another thing that can be bought here is the transfer to Europe. Prices vary, but usually come in between $5000-10.000.
Passports, of the kind found on the dead assailant in Paris, sell for $2000. The price used to be about half that, but ever since German chancellor Angela Merkel has promised to take in all Syrian refugees with little questions asked, they have gone up substantially.
My sources tell me that some businessmen from Syria have brought entire printing presses along with all the necessary papers to the Mardin province. Demand is high and the forgers are making a fortune.
When I ask whether everybody can buy a passport, somebody tells me to give him a picture and $2000, and I can become a Syrian in no time.
An small industry has been build around the forged passports. Language schools teach basic Syrian to those wishing to appear more convincing upon arrival in Europe. The vendor tells me I could easily sign up for one of these courses as well.
I thank him and decline. I prefer my German passport and continue my journey to the town of Midyat.
If you have enjoyed this story, please check out our Globalo Youth Peacemaker Tour, where we travel across 11countries in the Middle East, including Syria and Iraq, to find examples of peaceful coexistence between different cultures and religions in a region torn by violence and war. Please also consider supporting our StartNext Campaign.