Turkey Concerned at Growing Number of Syrian Refugees

Syrian refugee Nizar Hajyousuf speaks in Yayladagi, Turkey about about violence in his Syrian hometown, Jisr Ash Shugur, Mar 12, 2012.
Syrian refugee Nizar Hajyousuf speaks in Yayladagi, Turkey about about violence in his Syrian hometown, Jisr Ash Shugur, Mar 12, 2012.
Dorian Jones

Syrian refugees have crossed into Turkey in growing numbers in recent days, frightened by a government assault on the northern Syrian city of Idlib, near the border with Turkey. The latest influx of refugees has led to growing unease in Ankara.

Hundreds of refugees fleeing the fighting in Syria have crossed into Turkey since Saturday, when Syrian forces launched an assault on the opposition stronghold of Idlib. Sinan Ulgen, head of the international relations think tank EDAM, says the Turkish government is wary.

"In 1991, when Saddam had started to massacre his Kurdish population, Turkey ended being host to 550,000 Kurds in a few days. That still remains on the consciousness of Turkish policymakers and there have been a number of lessons drawn from that," Ulgen said.

Ankara says Syrians fleeing the fighting are welcome. According to Turkish officials, Turkey is hosting some 12,000 refugees.

Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman Selcuk Unal says they are prepared for any development. "Of course, Turkey is ready for any kind of eventuality, if the crisis is getting to worse situation. But on that, we will continue monitoring the situation on a continuous basis," Unal said.

But the government says it will not stand by if it is faced by a major exodus from Syria. An international relations expert for the Turkish newspaper Haberturk, Soli Ozel, says that is not an empty threat, but says Turkey does not want to act alone.

"Should there be a massive influx of refugees, Turkey would create a security zone inside (Syria), and absolutely wants the cover of some kind of international legitimacy. But for a Kosovo-type intervention, the only way plausible is for NATO to be engaged. And NATO does not even want to talk about it," Ozel said.

Ankara has been frustrated by what it sees as the failure of the United Nations Security Council to take a stronger stand against Damascus, due to vetoes by both China and Russia.

Turkey is currently working hard to build an international coalition against Syria's ongoing crackdown and is strongly backing the "Friends of Syria," a forum of around 70 countries supporting the Syrian opposition. Later this month, Turkey is to host a meeting of the group in Istanbul.

Last week, Turkish President Abdullah Gul visited Tunisia to build up support for a regional diplomatic solution to the crisis.

He said Turkey and Tunisia are opposed to arming the opposition and to foreign military intervention, which he said would worsen the situation in Syria. However, he said Tunis and Ankara are ready to contribute to an Arab League peacekeeping force in Syria.

But the failure of U.N. special representative Kofi Annan to secure a cease-fire in Syria after his visit to Damascus Saturday and Sunday dealt another blow to hopes of a peaceful resolution to the crisis.

Following Annan's visit, Syrian forces are reported to have stepped up their crackdown on opposition groups close to the Turkish border, after quelling the opposition in the city of Homs.

Annan is due to meet with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan late Monday. But with the fighting moving closer to Turkish territory and with the growing threat of a major influx of refugees, international relations expert Ozel warns Ankara's hand could be forced into an intervention.

"Turkey will try [to] avoid it as much as it can. But it may prove impossible. You are being drawn to things rather [than] controlling the direction [in which] things are moving," Ozel said.

Syrian forces are increasing their presence on the Turkish border and according to reports, even mining the border area. It is, as a result, becoming increasingly difficult for Syrian refugees to escape into Turkey.

For now, the numbers of refugees seeking sanctuary in Turkey remains manageable. But observers say Ankara is aware that with the crisis deepening in Syria, a humanitarian crisis on its border could become all too real.

This forum has been closed.
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.
Amnesty Accuses Saudi Coalition of ‘War Crimes’ in Yemeni
Henry Ridgwell
October 12, 2015 4:03 PM
The human rights group Amnesty International has accused the Saudi-led coalition of war crimes in airstrikes against Houthi rebels in Yemen. Henry Ridgwell reports the group says hundreds of civilians have been killed in strikes on residential areas.

Video Amnesty Accuses Saudi Coalition of ‘War Crimes’ in Yemen

The human rights group Amnesty International has accused the Saudi-led coalition of war crimes in airstrikes against Houthi rebels in Yemen. Henry Ridgwell reports the group says hundreds of civilians have been killed in strikes on residential areas.

Video No Resolution in Sight to US House Speaker Drama

Uncertainty grips the U.S. Congress, where no consensus replacement has emerged to succeed Republican House Speaker John Boehner after his surprise resignation announcement. Half of Congress is effectively leaderless weeks before America risks defaulting on its national debt and enduring another partial government shutdown.

Video New Art Exhibit Focuses on Hope

Out of struggle and despair often comes hope. That idea is behind a new art exhibit at the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore, Maryland. "The Big Hope Show" features 25 artists, some of whom overcame trauma and loss. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.

Video Columbus Day Still Generates Controversy as US Holiday

The second Monday of October is Columbus Day in the United States, honoring explorer Christopher Columbus and his discovery of the Americas. The achievement is a source of pride for many, but for some the holiday is marked by controversy. Adrianna Zhang has more.

Video Anger Simmers as Turks Begin to Bury Blast Victims

The Turkish army carried out new air strikes on Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) targets on Sunday, a day after the banned group announced a unilateral cease fire. The air raids apparently are in retaliation for the Saturday bombing in Turkey's capital Ankara that killed at least 95 people and wounded more than 200 others. But as Zlatica Hoke reports, there are suspicions that Islamic State is involved.

Video Bombings a Sign of Turkey’s Deep Troubles

Turkey has begun a three-day period of mourning following Saturday’s bomb attacks in the capital, Ankara, that killed nearly 100 people. With contentious parliamentary elections three weeks away, the attacks highlight the challenges Turkey is facing as it struggles with ethnic friction, an ongoing migrant crisis, and growing tensions with Russia. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video Afghanistan’s Progress Aided by US Academic Center

Recent combat in Afghanistan has shifted world attention back to the central Asian nation’s continuing civil war and economic challenges. But, while there are many vexing problems facing Afghanistan’s government and people, a group of academics in Omaha, Nebraska has kept a strong faith in the nation’s future through programs to improve education. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Omaha, Nebraska.

Video House Republicans in Chaos as Speaker Favorite Withdraws

The Republican widely expected to become the next speaker of the House of Representatives shocked his colleagues Thursday by announcing he was withdrawing his candidacy. The decision by Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy means the race to succeed retiring Speaker John Boehner is now wide open. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Video German, US Officials Investigate Volkswagen

German officials have taken steps to restore some of the reputation their car industry has lost after a recent Volkswagen diesel emissions scandal. Authorities have searched Volkswagen headquarters and other locations in an effort to identify the culprits in the creation of software that helps cheat on emission tests. Meanwhile, a group of lawmakers in Washington held a hearing to get to the bottom of the cheating strategy that was first discovered in the United States. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Why Are Gun Laws So Hard for Congress to Tackle?

Since taking office, President Barack Obama has spoken out or issued statements about 15 mass shootings. The most recent shooting, in which 10 people were killed at a community college, sparked outrage over the nation's gun laws. But changing those laws isn't as easy as many think. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.

Video In 'He Named Me Malala,' Guggenheim Finds Normal in Extraordinary

Davis Guggenheim’s documentary "He Named Me Malala" offers a probing look into the life of 18-year-old Malala Yousafsai, the Pakistani teenager who, in 2012, was shot in the head by the Taliban for standing up for her right to education in her hometown in Pakistan's Swat Valley. Guggenheim shows how, since then, Malala has become a symbol not as a victim of brutal violence, but as an advocate for girls’ education throughout the world. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.

Video Paintable Solar Cells May Someday Replace Silicon-Based Panels

Solar panels today are still factory-manufactured, with the use of some highly toxic substances such as cadmium chloride. But a researcher at St. Mary’s College, Maryland, says we are close to being able to create solar panels by painting them on a suitable surface, using nontoxic solutions. VOA’s George Putic reports.

VOA Blogs