News / Middle East

Increasing Number of Syrians Flee to Turkey

A Turkish soldier stands by as a group of Syrians wait for the authorization to enter Turkey near the Turkish village of Guvecci in Hatay province, Turkey, which borders Syria, June  9, 2011
A Turkish soldier stands by as a group of Syrians wait for the authorization to enter Turkey near the Turkish village of Guvecci in Hatay province, Turkey, which borders Syria, June 9, 2011

Hundreds of Syrian refugees have crossed into Turkey to escape the latest upsurge of unrest in Syria.  Turkey is bracing itself for a potential major exodus, as protests against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad escalate. There are growing concerns the destabilization in Syria could spill over into Turkey. Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said Thursday more than 2,500 civilians have entered his country since the unrest in neighboring Syria began in March. The influx prompted Turkish authorities to set up three camps to handle the crisis.

Hundreds of Syrians are continuing to cross into Turkey to escape President Bashar al-Assad's weeks-long crackdown against anti-government protesters.  Some of the refugees are believed to be from the town of Jisr al-Shughour, where 120 security troops were reportedly killed Monday during the anti-government demonstrations.  

The government has issued orders for security forces to hit back, accusing the protesters of being armed bandits.  

With the escalating violence, political scientist Soli Ozel says a major crisis could be looming; 250 refugees fled the conflict last month.

"You are liable to get massive influx of people trying to escape the war zones," Ozel said.

The Iraq crisis saw tens of thousands of people seeking refuge in Turkey, and according to Turkish media reports, facilities for 10,000 refugees are now being prepared.  

There is visa-free travel between Turkey and Syria, and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Wednesday the border would remain open.

Mr. Erdogan said at this point, closing the border is out of question.  He said his government is following the developments in Syria with concern, and urged Damascus to show more tolerance toward its citizens and take concrete steps toward reform as soon as possible.

The Turkish prime minister has pressed President Assad to introduce reforms, but has resisted domestic and international pressure to take a tougher line, saying Damascus should be given time.  

But the escalating crisis has seen Ankara toughening its language towards Damascus.  Diplomatic correspondent for the Turkish daily Milliyet, Semih Idiz, says the government is taking an increasingly more nuanced stance.

"We understand there is still a dialogue between Bashar al-Assad and the prime minister, Tayyip Erdogan.  On the other hand, the Syrian opposition met in Turkey and that could not have gone down very well in Damascus," Idiz said.

One reason behind Ankara reaching out to Syria is that it has a restive Kurdish population, which political scientist Nuray Mert of Istanbul University says has close ties with the Kurdish rebel group, the PKK, which is fighting the Turkish state.

"We know that there are very close links between PKK and Syrian Kurds, and this [is] another threat of destabilization in Turkey because anyway we have huge problems concerning the Kurdish problem," Mert said.

One of the main factors behind the rapprochement between the two countries was President Assad's crackdown against Syrian Kurdish nationalists.  Now, according to diplomatic correspondent Idiz, Ankara fears Mr. Assad may be reaching out to his restive Kurdish population.

"We understand Bashar al-Assad is now trying to co-opt the Kurds.  What happens to them politically and how they interact with northern Iraq and the Kurds in Turkey is of relevance [to] Ankara," Idiz said.

With the Syrian president increasingly isolated and desperate, concerns in Turkey that instability could spread to its territory are growing.

"Many people in the bordering areas in Syria and Turkey have relations, and there is the Alevi and Sunni situation also, [which] plays out in Turkey.  Do not forget Turkey has Alevi population that numbers anything up to 12 million," Idiz said.

Ankara will be hoping the Syrian crisis can be defused by government reforms and negotiations with the Syrian opposition, but as violence increases, observers say that is looking unlikely.

You May Like

Turkey's Controversial Reform Bill Giving Investors Jitters

Homeland security reform bill will give police new powers in search, seizure, detention and arrests, while restricting the rights of suspects, their attorneys More

Audio Slideshow In Kenyan Prison, Good Grades Are Path to Freedom

Some inmates who get high marks could see their sentences commuted to non-custodial status More

'Rumble in the Jungle' Turns 40

'The Champ' knocked Foreman out to regain crown he had lost 7 years earlier when US government accused him of draft-dodging and boxing officials revoked his license More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Victorious Secularists Face Challenge to Form Government in Tunisiai
X
Henry Ridgwell
October 30, 2014 11:39 PM
Official results from Tunisia show the Islamist Ennahda party has failed to win the second free election since the so-called "Arab Spring" uprising in 2011. Ennahda, which handed power to a government of technocrats pending the elections, lost out to the secular party Nidaa Tounes. Henry Ridgwell reports from London that the relatively peaceful poll offers some hope in a volatile region.
Video

Video Victorious Secularists Face Challenge to Form Government in Tunisia

Official results from Tunisia show the Islamist Ennahda party has failed to win the second free election since the so-called "Arab Spring" uprising in 2011. Ennahda, which handed power to a government of technocrats pending the elections, lost out to the secular party Nidaa Tounes. Henry Ridgwell reports from London that the relatively peaceful poll offers some hope in a volatile region.
Video

Video Africa Tells its Story Through Fashion

In Africa, Fashion Week is a riot of colors, shapes, patterns and fabrics - against the backdrop of its ongoing struggle between nature and its fast-growing urban edge. How do these ideas translate into needle and thread? VOA’s Anita Powell visited this year’s Mercedes Benz Fashion Week Africa in Johannesburg to find out.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.

All About America

AppleAndroid