Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Turkey’s Southern Border

 

Turkey has been adamant about preventing the Kurds controlling a contiguous area immediately South of its border with Syria. To that end, it entered Syria and has recently expanded the zone it controls directly (turquoise, labeled Afrin) and perhaps also indirectly (light green, labeled Idlib) in Syria’s North West:

Click to Syria Live Map for more details — including the deployment of what they call Turkish Watch Towers along Idlib’s Eastern and (makes sense if you think about it) Northern borders. Idlib is spiraling, I think, but in the North, according to Wikipedia:

Since the establishment of the occupation zone, the Turkish authorities have striven to restore civil society in the areas under their control and to also bind the region more closely to Turkey. As part of these efforts, towns and villages have been demilitarized by dismantling military checkpoints and moving the local militias to barracks and camps outside areas populated by civilians. Several schools were (re-)opened, with their curricula partially adjusted to education in Turkey: Turkish is taught as foreign language since first class and those who attend schools in the occupation zones can subsequently attend universities in Turkey. The Turkish post and telegraph directorate PTT has also opened a branch in Jarabulus in late 2017.

Turkey has also organized a new law enforcement authority in the occupation zone in early 2017, the “Free Police”, which is divided into the National Police and Public Security Forces. The Free Police includes both male as well as female officers. It is trained, equipped, and paid by Turkish authorities, and consequently loyal to the Turkish state.

Which seems a bit breathless. How long has Turkey controlled that zone anyway? One year? This sounds more aspirational than achieved. (And of course: there are problems.) But it fits intriguingly into what’s happening North of the border, in Turkey itself.

Turkey hosts about 3 million Syrian refugees with most of them in the country on temporary protection visas. They make up almost 4 percent of Turkey’s population (refugees altogether make up about 5 percent). In 2016, Erdogan floated the idea of granting some of them Turkish citizenship:

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on July 2 that Syrian refugees in the country would be offered nationality “if they want it,” … In total, Turkey is targeting giving Turkish citizenship to up to up to 300,000 Syrians, it added…. Family members of those chosen to become Turkish citizens could also get the right to become nationals…. The usual obligation of living in Turkey for at least five years before gaining citizenship could be waived for Syrians…. Syrian refugees who become Turkish nationals would then be able to vote in elections one year after being awarded nationality.

Presumably, overcome by gratitude, they would vote for Erdogan. So really there may be some self-interest at play here. From the same article:

The report appeared to generate anger among many social media users, with #suriyelilerehayir (“No to Syrians”) the top trending topic in Turkey on Twitter on Saturday.

Of course it’s worded ambiguously — 300,000 is only 10 percent of 3 million, but is that 300,000 only heads of households? What’s with this “family members of those chosen to become Turkish citizens could also become Turkish nationals” thing? (Is that the same as citizens?) Is that in addition to the 300,000 or as part of? When?

However it’s worded, most of the refugees think it’s a great idea:

The “Refugee Livelihood Monitor” survey aims to periodically track the living conditions of Syrian refugees living outside refugee camps, their general sentiments and their future plans in regards to living in Turkey, as well as their consumption and shopping behavior.

According to the poll, 74 percent of the respondents said they wanted to acquire Turkish citizenship, while the figure for respondents aged between 15 and 17 wanting to become Turkish passport holders was 80 percent.

Some 70 percent of the respondents did not know Turkish, according to the poll.

Interestingly:

…nine out of 10 respondents said they did not receive any [I’m presuming on a regular basis] social aid.

Some 13 percent of Syrian refugees receive social aid at least once during their time in Turkey, while 6 percent of them are receiving regular social aid from the government, according to the poll.

Anyway — this citizenship thing seems to actually be happening:

Speaking in Turkey’s southern province of Şanlıurfa, one of the cities hosting Syrian refugee camps, Interior Ministry General Directorate of Population and Citizenship Affairs Manager Sinan Güner told Anadolu Agency (AA) the process of granting citizenship had already begun.

“The citizenship process of a total of 35,000 Syrians has finished now,” Güner said. He said a further 15,000 applications were being reviewed, mostly children.

According to Interior Ministry figures, over 12,000 other Syrians have been given Turkish citizenship so far…Güner said the Syrians who would be granted citizenship had been selected according to certain criteria, particularly those with skills that would contribute to Turkey.

I don’t know many of these 50,000 are Syrian Turkmen, but I’m going to guess that most of them are not Syrian Kurds.

And Turkey seems to be serious about not pushing the rest back into North Syria, even into the Turkish zone. From a somewhat disapproving article on Syria Deeply:

Turkey plans to transfer all Syrian students [in Turkey] (currently estimated at 612,000) to Turkish schools by 2019. It also plans to close all Syrian interim schools and construct more public schools in cooperation with UNICEF to absorb the additional students in areas with a large number of refugees.

Which looks like a move towards permanence. (And integration.)

For context, an ethnolinguistic map of Turkey:

And the location of Syrian refugees in Turkey:

If they all stay, Urfa looks like it’ll get at least a bit less Kurdish. It’ll also, sotto voce, get a little more Sunni. (This kind of fits in with Erdogan’s vision of national identity?)

For its own reasons, Assad’s Government is helping the process along by (1) brutally besieging rebel-held enclaves until (2) they agree to be evacuated to be kettled in Idlib (it’s done this in Zabadani, in Aleppo, and in Ghouta) and (3) then [now] passing laws that make it increasingly unlikely that they will return to their homes:

Law Number 10, introduced earlier this week, calls on Syrians to register their private properties with the Ministry of Local Administration within 30 days….

Titleholders must either provide proof of ownership documents themselves, or ensure a relative does so on their behalf. Otherwise, they face having to relinquish their properties to the state.

…with about 13 million Syrians, internally or externally displaced…many families face the potential of losing their homes forever….

“It is impossible for me to go back home to prove my right to my lands and properties,” [a] 27-year-old, who owns two homes and an electronics shop in Hammouria, told Al Jazeera.

“If I attempt to do so, I’ll either be killed or arrested by pro-government forces,” added Abu Jawad who fled to the northwestern province of Idlib [from Eastern Ghouta] earlier this month.

If the Syrian refugees in Turkey have even less to go back to in a month, they’re less likely to go back at all. It’s starting to look like this will be permanent. My broad takes are:

Turkey has turned its attention firmly eastward. This is what Europe’s been hoping it will do, but I wonder if they’re prepared for the consequences. Turkey has its own agenda and measures of success and failure.

Turkey has learned from Pakistan’s experience — hosting millions of Afghanistani refugees for years without politically integrating them turned out to be deeply destabilizing for Islamabad. So was serving as a launch pad into Afghanistan — perhaps Turkey will be less enthused about filling this role with respect to Syria?

This Northern Safe Zone thing has the potential to be a security barrier for Turkey, but it could also end up a massive and ongoing drain. If it all works out, do you think the population will be interested in integrating with Turkey (economically and politically) or not? Basically, is this going to be Kashmir or Northern Cyprus?

I suspect that the US may be okay with a Turkish Zone that lies west of the Euphrates.

Your thoughts?

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  1. Arahant Member

    Zafar: Your thoughts?

    My thought is that I know enough to not opine. It’s a very complex situation, and I haven’t been in that area since that moron left the gate open.

    • #1
    • April 7, 2018, at 11:11 PM PDT
    • 6 likes
  2. Zafar Member
    Zafar

    Arahant (View Comment):

    Zafar: Your thoughts?

    My thought is that I know enough to not opine.

    Doesn’t stop me, but!

    • #2
    • April 8, 2018, at 12:23 AM PDT
    • 4 likes
  3. Gary McVey Contributor
    Gary McVey Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Turkey has turned its attention firmly Eastward. This is what Europe’s been hoping it will do, but I wonder if they’re prepared for the consequences.

    Agreed, and it’s both different and alarmingly similar to what made the Ottoman empire work, when it did work. There’s a time when the Turks managed a geographically vast multiethnic coalition, first with steel and the lash, then with subtlety and centuries of statecraft, and when that’s in a country’s DNA, it’s hard to accept a lesser role. Ask the British. 

    This Northern Safe Zone thing has the potential to be a security barrier for Turkey, but it could also end up a massive and ongoing drain. If it all works out, do you think the population will be interested in integrating with Turkey (economically and politically) or not? Basically, is this going to be Kashmir or Northern Cyprus?

    To use a very rough, inexact analogy, this NSZ is more likely to be less like Russia’s takeover of the Crimea, and more like Russia’s murky, lasting involvement in eastern Ukraine: a source of nationalist pride for some time, then a slowly growing countrywide resentment at its absorption of resources. 

    • #3
    • April 8, 2018, at 1:02 AM PDT
    • 6 likes
  4. ctlaw Coolidge

    The first thing I noticed is that Turkey is effectively expanding Hatay province. Syrians have always regarded Hatay as Syrian.

    What is Assad’s take? What is Iran’s take?

    • #4
    • April 8, 2018, at 5:30 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
  5. Larry3435 Member

    Or, Turkey could follow the model that has been in place for Palestinian refugees since 1946 – don’t integrate them, keep them in camps for generations, while they demand a “right of return” and conduct a terrorist campaign against Syria. Well, that’s unlikely because (somehow) that model never gets followed for any refugees except Palestinians.

    • #5
    • April 8, 2018, at 6:05 AM PDT
    • 5 likes
  6. Front Seat Cat Member

    Given that the ruler of Turkey is a thug, and just met for a happy photo spread with the world’s other thugs, and Syrian’s ruler is a thug, he’s not doing the Syrians any favors – it’s all about him. Ultimately, I think the Syrian people just want peace and to go home and rebuild – replacing one dictator for another doesn’t solve a thing. 

    http://www.jpost.com/printarticle.aspx?id=549022

    Thanks for your very informative post and the maps explaining what is going on to date.

    • #6
    • April 8, 2018, at 6:24 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  7. Quake Voter Inactive

    I’d be more worried if we didn’t have NATO as a bulwark against this mildly Islamist fascist. Oh wait …

    I’m sure Tom Nichols and The Experts with all those capital letters after their names from war colleges and stuff will figure it all out.

    • #7
    • April 8, 2018, at 6:38 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  8. Zafar Member
    Zafar

    ctlaw (View Comment):
    What is Assad’s take? What is Iran’s take?

    They’re probably okay with a bunch of the rebels going to Turkey and not coming back.

    Seriously – 3 million is more than 15% of Syria’s pre-war population. That’s a lot of rebels.

    And then there’s this:

    https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/jan/13/irans-syria-project-pushing-population-shifts-to-increase-influence

    From which:

    In the valleys between Damascus and Lebanon, where whole communities had abandoned their lives to war, a change is taking place. For the first time since the conflict broke out, people are starting to return.

    But the people settling in are not the same as those who fled during the past six years.

    The new arrivals have a different allegiance and faith to the predominantly Sunni Muslim families who once lived there. They are, according to those who have sent them, the vanguard of a move to repopulate the area with Shia Muslims not just from elsewhere in Syria, but also from Lebanon and Iraq.

    • #8
    • April 8, 2018, at 6:39 AM PDT
    • 4 likes
  9. ctlaw Coolidge

    Zafar (View Comment):

    ctlaw (View Comment):
    What is Assad’s take? What is Iran’s take?

    They’re probably okay with a bunch of the rebels going to Turkey and not coming back.

    Seriously – 3 million is more than 15% of Syria’s pre-war population. That’s a lot of rebels.

    And then there’s this:

    https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/jan/13/irans-syria-project-pushing-population-shifts-to-increase-influence

    Worthy of a separate post.

    • #9
    • April 8, 2018, at 6:44 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  10. Zafar Member
    Zafar

    @ctlaw

    But it seems overly ambitious/unrealistic?

    • #10
    • April 8, 2018, at 6:57 AM PDT
    • Like
  11. ctlaw Coolidge

    Zafar (View Comment):

    @ctlaw

    But it seems overly ambitious/unrealistic?

    Remove a few million Sunnis Turkified to help Erdogan plus a few million more sent to destabilize Europe and you allow a million or so Shi’a immigrants to stabilize Shi’a-Alawite control of an urban belt in western Syria from Israel to Turkey.

    • #11
    • April 8, 2018, at 7:18 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  12. Hang On Member
    Hang On Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Zafar: Turkey has turned its attention firmly Eastward.

    And Atatürk must be turning over in his grave. 

     

    • #12
    • April 8, 2018, at 8:03 AM PDT
    • 4 likes
  13. Zafar Member
    Zafar

    ctlaw (View Comment):

    Zafar (View Comment):

    @ctlaw

    But it seems overly ambitious/unrealistic?

    Remove a few million Sunnis Turkified to help Erdogan plus a few million more sent to destabilize Europe and you allow a million or so Shi’a immigrants to stabilize Shi’a-Alawite control of an urban belt in western Syria from Israel to Turkey.

    But from where? How many?

    Why would ordinary Shias move from Lebanon or Iraq to a war zone?

    I’m sure that Iran (and maybe Assad) would like to do this, but I don’t think there are that many Arab Shi’a handily available. 

    I do think they do this ‘replacement’ in small areas (like Zabadani) with a forced population exchange, but I doubt they have the capacity to rejig all of Western Syria. (The only migration sources I can think of are Yemen (already at war) or maybe AfPak, and the AfPaks aren’t Arabs.)

    Plus – Assad has significant Sunni support. If you (Syrian Sunni or Shia) have no interest in a sectarian state, then he’s the flawed, least awful option. Because at least not ideologically sectarian. 

    • #13
    • April 8, 2018, at 8:09 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  14. ctlaw Coolidge

    Zafar (View Comment):

    ctlaw (View Comment):

    Zafar (View Comment):

    But it seems overly ambitious/unrealistic?

    Remove a few million Sunnis Turkified to help Erdogan plus a few million more sent to destabilize Europe and you allow a million or so Shi’a immigrants to stabilize Shi’a-Alawite control of an urban belt in western Syria from Israel to Turkey.

    But from where? How many?

    Clear out all the little goatherd villages in Iraq and Iran. One of the distinguishing features of resource extraction economies in the mechanized era is that people are generally worthless to the government except as occasional cannon fodder. Moving them to western Syria to stabilize Assad and build infrastructure to attack Israel gives them value they never previously had.

    Why would ordinary Shias move from Lebanon or Iraq to a war zone?

    Once depopulated, it ceases to be a war zone. The Jihadi spirit plus the prospect of receiving a nice new house could be quite appealing.

    I’m sure that Iran (and maybe Assad) would like to do this, but I don’t think there are that many Arab Shi’a handily available.

    Just Iraq’s rural populace is 12 million.

    I do think they do this ‘replacement’ in small areas (like Zabadani) with a forced population exchange, but I doubt they have the capacity to rejig all of Western Syria. (The only migration sources I can think of are Yemen (already at war) or maybe AfPak, and the AfPaks aren’t Arabs.)

    Plus – Assad has significant Sunni support. If you (Syrian Sunni or Shia) have no interest in a sectarian state, then he’s the flawed, least awful option. Because at least not ideologically sectarian.

    But the new populace will make up for it.

     

    • #14
    • April 8, 2018, at 9:14 AM PDT
    • Like
  15. Doug Watt Moderator

    There are a lot of competing interests in Syria, and they range from national to tribal. I’m not using tribal as a pejorative. I’m not sure any of the nationalists will be able to exert their total control over Syria, or the border areas of Turkey.

    For example Iran provided military manpower, as well as Russia to Assad. The Iranians also tried to establish a military presence on the Golan Heights, as well as trying to supply arms to Hezbollah in Lebanon. The Israeli Air Force has flown three or four major airstrikes, including one that destroyed an Iranian arms depot in Damascus, and others that targeted the Iranian’s on the Golan Heights, and Iranian arms convoys into Lebanon.

    There are a lot of players in Syria, to include the US, as well as Jordan.

    • #15
    • April 8, 2018, at 5:53 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  16. Ontheleftcoast Member

    Zafar (View Comment):
    They are, according to those who have sent them, the vanguard of a move to repopulate the area with Shia Muslims not just from elsewhere in Syria, but also from Lebanon and Iraq.

    If you didn’t know better you’d think Iran was up to something.

    • #16
    • April 8, 2018, at 6:27 PM PDT
    • 4 likes
  17. James Gawron Thatcher
    James Gawron Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Zafar,

    Your maps reveal a dynamic that is undoubtedly very controlling. There is a large section of eastern Turkey that is ethnically Kurd. However, the area of Northern Iraq controlled by the Kurds is also very large. Obviously, Erdogan does not feel safe unless he has split the two regions. That is the main purpose of his incursion into Afrin & Idlib. To what extent could a Kurdish Nation exist without the Kurds in Turkey or are they an integral part of Kurdish Nationalism?

    Have the Kurds been trying all along to unite the Kurdish regions in Iraq and with the regions inside Turkey? Is this what the conflict with Erdogan is all about? Did he intend to use the Syrians as a buffer against the Kurds all along?

    Kurdish Nationalism the elephant in the room that no one mentions?

    Regards,

    Jim

    • #17
    • April 8, 2018, at 7:03 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  18. Zafar Member
    Zafar

    Erdogan is reasonably up front about opposing it, though he tends to call all of it terrorism. (Admittedly the PKK does commit/has committed terrorist acts.)

    Most Kurds live in Turkey:

    Their biggest urban presence is in Istanbul.

    I suspect Baghdad comes second.

    So the map is not completely helpful wrt where Kurds are.

    • #18
    • April 8, 2018, at 8:06 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  19. Locke On Member

    This is another useful site for following the Syrian conflict:

    https://syriancivilwarmap.com/

    • #19
    • April 8, 2018, at 8:35 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  20. Zafar Member
    Zafar

    Okay, so these are from Business Insider in 2015:

    And more pointedly:

    If we take the Government controlled zone in 2011 to be the whole country, there are significant changes in proportionate share of the population (for eg. the Alawite share went up from 10% to 23%).

    Otoh:

    The bulk of displacement during the conflict has been triggered by the regime’s use of indirect violence, such as barrel bombs and airstrikes…

    Indirect? Anyway….(emphasis added)

    The fact that rebel-held areas are overwhelmingly Sunni is often used as evidence that forcing the population to flee through these tactics amounts to sectarian cleansing by Assad’s Alawite-dominated regime. But most IDPs from opposition territories have fled to government zones….These included Sunnis, who remain the majority in areas controlled by the regime and fixtures of the country’s economy and security apparatus…

    …as part of evacuations that followed brutal government sieges in Daraya, Moadamiya, Zabadani, Homs and most recently, Aleppo City, most residents were still given a choice of destination: rebel-held Idlib Province, or regime-controlled areas nearby…people who elected regime areas have been held in government shelters, where they are screened…provided aid…Some are arrested and others forcibly recruited into the armed forces. Those who pass background checks and sign loyalty oaths are permitted to go home…

    The strategic benefits of uprooting civilians therefore goes beyond draining restive towns of its residents. Were expulsion the ultimate objective of the Syrian government, its approach to IDPs would look similar to the Syrian Kurds: it would refuse to accept them.

    Is that true?

    But the regime has employed several methods to entice people to its territories…The Syrian army has inundated civilians in Homs, Aleppo, and other contested areas with text messages announcing relief distributions and leaflets providing detailed instructions and “passes” for entry into regime territory….operated collective relief centers [ensuring] international aid goes to areas it controls…Civil servants living under the opposition have continued to receive government paychecks…IDP shelters…have been used to showcase the number of people seeking sanctuary from “terrorism” and receiving assistance from the government, an attempt to legitimize the regime to both domestic and international audiences.

    …luring people back to the state stems from extractive needs, not just punitive ones […it…] helps the regime gather intelligence…Its forces have conscripted male IDPs…Civilians displaced to the coastal provinces of Tartus and Latakia have offered capital and labor to the local economy, leading the government to facilitate the entry of IDPs from Aleppo into the labor market…

    Fleeing to government areas may be motivated by expediency and survival more than political preference. But it still amounts to a symbolic act of obedience to a regime that built its authority on outward signs of passive compliance from citizens instead of by cultivating “true believers”…

    Sect/ethnicity is the basest level of identity to mobilise around – but it isn’t always the most relevant thing, even to the people driving the mobilising. ??

    • #20
    • April 9, 2018, at 5:20 AM PDT
    • 2 likes

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