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

    In Britain, The Sun Still Doesn’t Shine

    Invoking Spitfires and Merlin, Leave voters insist country can be great again, following surprising 'Brexit' vote last week

    Double Wave of Suicide Bombings Puts Lebanon, Refugees on Edge

    Following suicide bombings in Christian town of Al-Qaa, on Lebanon's northeast border with Syria, fears of further bombings have risen

    US Senators Warned on Zika After Failing to Pass Funding

    Zika threats and challenges, as well as issues of contraception and vaccines, spelled out as lawmakers point fingers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Slow Rebuilding Amid Boko Haram Destruction in Nigeria’s Northeasti
    X
    June 29, 2016 6:15 PM
    Military operations have chased Boko Haram out of towns and cities in Nigeria’s northeast since early last year. But it is only recently that people have begun returning to their homes in Adamawa state, near the border with Cameroon, to try to rebuild their lives. For VOA, Chris Stein traveled to the area and has this report.
    Video

    Video Slow Rebuilding Amid Boko Haram Destruction in Nigeria’s Northeast

    Military operations have chased Boko Haram out of towns and cities in Nigeria’s northeast since early last year. But it is only recently that people have begun returning to their homes in Adamawa state, near the border with Cameroon, to try to rebuild their lives. For VOA, Chris Stein traveled to the area and has this report.
    Video

    Video Clinton Leads Trump, But Many Voters Don't Like Either

    In the U.S. presidential race, most recent polls show Democrat Hillary Clinton with a steady lead over Republican Donald Trump as both presumptive party nominees prepare for their party conventions next month. Trump’s disapproval ratings have risen in some recent surveys, but Clinton also suffers from high negative ratings, suggesting both candidates have a lot of work to do to improve their images before the November election. VOA National correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video New US Ambassador to Somalia Faces Heavy Challenges

    The new U.S. envoy to Somalia, who was sworn into office Monday, will be the first American ambassador to that nation in 25 years. He will take up his post as Somalia faces a number of crucial issues, including insecurity, an upcoming election, and the potential closure of the Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya. VOA’s Jill Craig asked Somalis living in Kenya’s capital city Nairobi how they feel about the U.S. finally installing a new ambassador.
    Video

    Video At National Zoo, Captivating Animal Sculptures Illustrate Tragedy of Ocean Pollution

    The National Zoo in Washington, D.C., is home to about 1,800 animals, representing 300 species. But throughout the summer, visitors can also see other kinds of creatures there. They are larger-than-life animal sculptures that speak volumes about a global issue — the massive plastic pollution in our oceans. VOA's June Soh takes us to the zoo's special exhibit, called Washed Ashore: Art to Save the Sea.
    Video

    Video Baghdad Bikers Defy War with a Roar

    Baghdad is a city of contradictions. War is a constant. Explosions and kidnappings are part of daily life. But the Iraqi capital remains a thriving city, even if a little beat up. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on how some in Baghdad are defying the stereotype of a nation at war by pursuing a lifestyle known for its iconic symbols of rebellion: motorbikes, leather jackets and roaring engines.
    Video

    Video Melting Pot of Immigrants Working to Restore US Capitol Dome

    The American Iron Works company is one of the firms working to renovate the iconic U.S. Capitol Dome. The company employs immigrants of many different cultural and national backgrounds. VOA’s Arman Tarjimanyan has more.
    Video

    Video Testing Bamboo as Building Material

    For thousands of years various species of bamboo - one of the world's most versatile plants - have been used for diverse purposes ranging from food and medicine to textiles and construction. But its use on a large scale is hampered because it's not manufactured to specific standards but grown in the ground. A University of Pittsburgh professor is on track to changing that. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Orphanage in Iraqi City Houses Kids Who Lost their Parents to Attacks by IS

    An orphanage in Iraqi Kurdistan has become home to scores of Yazidi children who lost their parents after Islamic State militants took over Sinjar in Iraq’s Nineveh Province in 2014. Iraqi Kurdish forces backed by the U.S. airstrikes have since recaptured Sinjar but the need for the care provided by the orphanage continues. VOA’s Kawa Omar filed this report narrated by Rob Raffaele.
    Video

    Video Re-Opening Old Wounds in a Bullet-Riddled Cultural Landmark

    A cultural landmark before Lebanon’s civil war transformed it into a nest of snipers, Beirut’s ‘Yellow House’ is once again set to play a crucial role in the city.  Built in a neo-Ottoman style in the 1920s, in September it is set to be re-opened as a ‘memory museum’ - its bullet-riddled walls and bunkered positions overlooking the city’s notorious ‘Green Line’ maintained for posterity. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Brexit Resounds in US Presidential Contest

    Britain’s decision to leave the European Union is resounding in America’s presidential race. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, Republican presumptive nominee Donald Trump sees Britain’s move as an affirmation of his campaign’s core messages, while Democrat Hillary Clinton sees the episode as further evidence that Trump is unfit to be president.
    Video

    Video NASA Juno Spacecraft, Nearing Jupiter, to Shed Light on Gas Giant

    After a five-year journey, the spacecraft Juno is nearing its destination, the giant planet Jupiter, where it will enter orbit and start sending data back July 4th. As Mike O'Sullivan reports from Pasadena, California, the craft will pierce the veil of Jupiter's dense cloud cover to reveal its mysteries.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora