News / Middle East

    Turkey Fears ISIL Radicalism Could Spill Over From Syria, Iraq

    FILE - Fighters with the militant group Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also called ISIS by some) wave flags as they take part in a military parade in Syria.
    FILE - Fighters with the militant group Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also called ISIS by some) wave flags as they take part in a military parade in Syria.
    Dorian Jones

    With the Sunni jihadist group ISIL stepping up attacks in Syria along the border with Turkey, concern is growing in Turkey that the violence could spill over.

    Earlier this month, Istanbul’s Jafari Muhamadiye Mosque a mosque belonging to Turkey's Shi'ite Muslim minority was burned down. The attack was blamed on ISIL and is seen as a possible harbinger of future ISIL attacks, which could threaten Turkey's complex social fabric. 

    Istanbul is home to large numbers of adherents of both Sunni Islam and Shi'ite Islam -- or Jafari Islam, as the latter is known in Turkey.  But tensions between the two groups have been rising following the arson attack.

    Speaking in the burned out ruins of his mosque, Imam Hamza Aydin said he has no doubt sectarianism was the motive for the attack.

    Aydin said that just before the attack, a group of men came to the mosque, and said that Jafaris “worship stones” and threatened to set fire to the mosque.

    He said mosque authorities went to the police, but they did nothing.

    Turkey’s neighbors Iraq and Syria have seen growing sectarian strife between Sunnis and Shi'ites, blamed mainly on the emergence of ISIL, which now calls itself simply the Islamic State. The group regards Shi'ites as heretics.

    Analyst Sinan Ülgen of the Carnegie Europe Institute in Brussels said fears are growing that ISIL's sectarian war is coming to Turkey,

    "There are allegations that some members of a network that claim to be close to ISIL have engineered this,” Ülgen said. “Some of these militants groups have been able to establish their networks over the years, at the time the Turkish government turned (a) blind eye to many of these opposition groups. It just shows you Turkey is not going to be safe from all the instability from Syria."

    Turkey's ruling Islamist-rooted AK Party is one of the main supporters of the rebel groups fighting the Syrian regime. The arson attack on the Istanbul mosque has not been the only such incident. Shi'ites in Istanbul claim they have been the target of increasing sectarian violence.

    A shopkeeper in one of Istanbul’s Shi'ite neighborhoods said that recently, a man shouting he was from ISIL starting attacking Shi'ites outside another mosque in Istanbul.

    Electoral politics could be also be a factor behind the rising tensions. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is running for president in next month’s elections, and he is rallying his largely conservative Sunni religious base. Critics accuse him of increasingly using sectarian language aimed at Shi'ites. He also resisted calls in the media and from Shiite groups to condemn the Istanbul mosque attack.

    But Mehmet Gomez, head of the Diyanet, the state body that administers the Islamic faith in Turkey, did visit the burned out mosque

    “We will rebuild the mosque together,” he said at the site of the mosque. “We are all Muslims, we use Korans and mosques. We will replace the burned books in the best possible way together, he said, and then we will gather here again and pray together.”

    Observers say such gestures could prove crucial amid rising tensions and concerns over the growing danger of radical groups like ISIL.

    Still, ISIL flags and bandanas are increasingly visible at protests organized by Islamic groups, indicating that at least some Sunnis in Turkey have sympathy for the group. Analysts warn that ISIL's increasing presence is likely to test the cohesiveness of Turkish society.

    You May Like

    Video As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Fill

    Before burial at overflowing cemeteries, unidentified dead being swapped for DNA, in case some day relatives come to learn their fate

    Russian Opposition Leader Sues Putin for Conflict of Interest

    Alexei Navalny tells VOA in exclusive interview why transfer of $2 billion from country’s wealth fund to company with ties to President Putin’s son-in-law triggered lawsuit

    Clinton, Sanders Fight for African American Votes

    Some African American lawmakers lining up to support Clinton in face of perceived surge by Sanders in race for Democratic nomination in presidential campaign

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    NATO to Target Migrant Smugglersi
    X
    Jeff Custer
    February 11, 2016 4:35 PM
    NATO has announced plans to send warships to the Aegean Sea to target migrant smugglers in the alliance's most direct intervention so far since a wave of people began trying to reach European shores.
    Video

    Video NATO to Target Migrant Smugglers

    NATO has announced plans to send warships to the Aegean Sea to target migrant smugglers in the alliance's most direct intervention so far since a wave of people began trying to reach European shores.
    Video

    Video Russia's Catholics, Orthodox Hopeful on Historic Pope-Patriarch Meeting

    Russia's Catholic minority has welcomed an historic first meeting Friday in Cuba between the Pope and the Patriarch of Russia's dominant Orthodox Church. The Orthodox Church split with Rome in 1054 and analysts say politics, both church and state, have been driving the relationship in the centuries since. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Used Books Get a New Life on the Streets of Lagos

    Used booksellers are importing books from abroad and selling them on the streets of Africa's largest city. What‘s popular with readers may surprise you. Chris Stein reports from Lagos.
    Video

    Video After NH Primaries All Eyes on South Carolina

    After Tuesday's primary in New Hampshire, US presidential candidates swiftly turned to the next election coming up in South Carolina. The so-called “first-in-the-South” poll may help further narrow down the field of candidates. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video US Co-ed Selective Service Plan Stirs Controversy

    Young women may soon be required to register with the U.S. Selective Service System, the U.S. government agency charged with implementing a draft in a national emergency. Top Army and Marine Corps commanders told the Senate Armed Services Committee recently that women should register, and a bill has been introduced in Congress requiring eligible women to sign up for the military draft. The issue is stirring some controversy, as VOA’s Bernard Shusman reports from New York.
    Video

    Video Lessons Learned From Ebola Might Help Fight Zika

    Now that the Ebola epidemic has ended in West Africa, Zika has the world's focus. And, as Carol Pearson reports, health experts and governments are applying some of the lessons learned during the Ebola crisis in Africa to fight the Zika virus in Latin America and the Caribbean.
    Video

    Video Smartphone Helps Grow Vegetables

    One day, you may be using your smartphone to grow your vegetables. A Taipei-based company has developed a farm cube — a small, enclosed ecosystem designed to grow plants indoors. The environment inside is automatically adjusted by the cube, but it can also be controlled through an app. VOA's Deborah Block has more on the gardening system.
    Video

    Video Illinois Voters Have Mixed Emotions on Obama’s Return to Springfield

    On the ninth anniversary of the launch of his quest for national office, President Barack Obama returned to Springfield, Illinois, to speak to the Illinois General Assembly, where he once served as state senator. His visit was met with mixed emotions by those with a front-row seat on his journey to the White House. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.
    Video

    Video Exhibit Turns da Vinci’s Drawings Into Real Objects

    In addition to being a successful artist, Renaissance genius Leonardo da Vinci designed many practical machines, some of which are still in use today, although in different forms. But a number of his projects were never realized — until today. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Heated Immigration Debate Limits Britain’s Refugee Response

    Compared to many other European states, Britain has agreed to accept a relatively small number of Syrian refugees. Just over a thousand have arrived so far -- and some are being resettled in remote corners of the country. Henry Ridgwell reports on why Britain’s response has lagged behind its neighbors.
    Video

    Video Russia's Car Sales Shrink Overall, But Luxury and Economy Models See Growth

    Car sales in Russia dropped by more than a third in 2015 because of the country's economic woes. But, at the extreme ends of the car market, luxury vehicles and some economy brands are actually experiencing growth. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Jordanian Theater Group Stages Anti-Terrorism Message

    The lure of the self-styled “Islamic State” has many parents worried about their children who may be susceptible to the organization’s online propaganda. Dozens of Muslim communities in the Middle East are fighting back -- giving young adults alternatives to violence. One group in Jordan is using dramatic expression a send a family message. Mideast Broadcasting Network correspondent Haider Al Abdali shared this report with VOA. It’s narrated by Bronwyn Benito
    Video

    Video Civil Rights Pioneer Remembers Struggle for Voting Rights

    February is Black History Month in the United States. The annual, month-long national observance pays tribute to important people and events that shaped the history of African Americans. VOA's Chris Simkins reports how one man fought against discrimination to help millions of blacks obtain the right to vote
    Video

    Video Helping the Blind 'See' Great Art

    There are 285 million blind and visually impaired people in the world who are unable to enjoy visual art at a museum. One New York photographer is trying to fix this situation by making tangible copies of the world’s masterpieces. VOA correspondent Victoria Kupchinetsky was there as visually impaired people got a feel for great art. Joy Wagner narrates her report.