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Turkmen Seeking Refuge From Syria in Turkey

  • Dorian Jones

FILE - Syrian Turkmen at a makeshift refugee camp some kilometers away from the Syria-Turkey border, Apr. 23, 2013.

FILE - Syrian Turkmen at a makeshift refugee camp some kilometers away from the Syria-Turkey border, Apr. 23, 2013.

There are a growing numbers of Turkish nationalists fighting with Syrian Turkmen, as Syrian forces backed by Russian airpower step up their operations against the Turkish minority. Growing numbers of Turkmen are now seeking refuge in Turkey to escape the fighting.

Last week, thousands of Turkish nationalists turned out for the funeral of a senior member of Turkey’s National Action Party or MHP, who was killed fighting with Syrian Turkmen.

Political consultant Atilla Yesilada says growing numbers of nationalist Turks are being drawn to the conflict.

"The way the Assad armies and Russians are treating Turkmen is nationalizing the problem. Its the Pan Turkish issue, MHP thinks whether Turks live in Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan or Syria, they belong to the same homeland so they go to the defense of homeland, they go to the defense of their kinsman. They fought in Bosnia as well," said Yesilada.

Since Syrian Turkmen forces killed a Russian pilot shot down by Turkish jets in November, military operations by the Syrian regime forces backed by Russian airpower has intensified.

But Political columnist Kadri Gursel of Al Monitor website, says the Turkmen are key part of Ankara’s efforts to overthrow Syrian regime of President Bashar Al Assad.

"Sunni Turkmen were Ankara’s natural allies in a strategy to topple the regime. They have armed and organized Sunni Turkmen battalions, baptized to the names Ottoman Sultans, which were famous for their Ottoman Islamism, Sunnis. They have created a perception which, all Turkmen were the allies of Ankara. Turkmen will be the biggest losers of this Syria policy," said Gursel.

Thousands of Syrian Turkmen are fleeing to Turkey in the face of a series of victories by Syrian regime forces. The Russian foreign ministry in a statement Thursday claimed it had detected secret preparations by Turkish forces to intervene into Syria.

But political columnist Gursel says the risks of such an intervention makes it unlikely.

"If they decided to invade Syria, to defend Turkmen, Ankara will be bogged down into a quagmire, with no exit strategy. And they will be not only one adversary there. There are Kurds, there are Syrians, there are Russians, even Iranians, and also ISIS. I think it is not a defendable position," he said.

But observers says the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is famed for doubling down in high risk confrontations, especially after investing so much political capital supporting the Turkmen, whose defeat could ultimately symbolize a wider failed Syrian policy.

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