News / Europe

Turkey Struggles to Block Flow of Jihadists

FILE - Islamist fighters are seen in Latakia province, Syria, not far from the Turkish border, March 31, 2014.
FILE - Islamist fighters are seen in Latakia province, Syria, not far from the Turkish border, March 31, 2014.
Dorian Jones

The second brutal murder on video of a U.S. journalist by the Islamic State group (IS) is likely to add to diplomatic pressure from the West on Turkey.  Criticism has been growing over Ankara allowing itself to become a gateway for jihadists.

Turkey became the primary route for foreign jihadists to join Syria's civil war because of the country's easy visa policies for travel, its porous 910-kilometer border with Syria, and its modern transportation infrastructure.

Ankara, which grew hostile to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad after his deadly crackdown on protesters in 2011, also allowed foreign militants who sought to oust him to freely operate, according to news reports.  Ankara has denied turning a blind eye to their presence.

Analysts say what may be limiting Turkey's ability to overtly crack down on jihadists is the Islamic State's kidnapping of 49 Turkish diplomats and their families in Mosul, Iraq, nearly three months ago.

Turkish officials declined to comment on the hostages' status after the government in June banned domestic media from reporting on the issue.

Political columnist Kadri Gursel of the Turkish newspaper Milliyet says the hostage crisis is not only a humanitarian problem, but is now dictating Turkish foreign policy towards the Islamic State militants.

“The government has declared a censorship in order to suppress any kind of discussion, because as far as we see now, this hostage situation determines the level of its contribution to the war on IS. I think the most important thing Turkey can do with this hostage situation is secure the Turkey-Syria border,” says Gursel.

Western allies are increasingly voicing concerns over the number of jihadists using Turkey to join radical groups like Islamic State.

Sinan Ulgen of the Carnegie Institute in Brussels says that pressure is paying off with Ankara now starting to address those concerns.

“Ankara's past assessment regarding the true nature of these groups was somewhat mistaken. Ankara's Syria policy is now more in line with that of its partners in the West and in particular Washington. They tend to look at these groups with a similar outlook,” says Ulgen.

A Turkish Foreign Ministry official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said European countries could do more in providing accurate and timely intelligence on nationals from Europe coming to Turkey for jihad in Syria.  But the same official acknowledged that with Turkish colleagues held captive, they have to be very careful in moving against Islamic State.

But it's not only diplomats who have been targeted.

In 2003, an al-Qaida cell launched a series of major car bomb attacks in Istanbul against synagogues, the British consulate and a British-based bank. It resulted in nearly a hundred dead and many more injured.

Concerns among Turks

On the streets of Istanbul, for some there is fear over the danger posed by the Islamic State or ISID as it's called here, explains a man who preferred to remain anonymous.

"I am really worried about ISID because in Turkey there is a conservative side, there is a real conservative side. I think ISID getting power in Syria and Iraq that can be an option for Turkey's conservative people, I really worried about that," says he.

Columnist Gursel says that pro-government media coverage of the Syrian conflict continues to remain a powerful jihadist recruiting tool especially among religious followers of the ruling AK party, which has its roots in political Islam.  Gursel warns the government and country can end up paying a very high price.

"We know that there are hundreds, maybe thousands of Turks and Kurds too, who have already joined the IS. And it's a big headache because these people will be battle-hardened, trained killers when they will be back. And the only thing that is needed, Turkish-speaking elements, who are capable to represent IS ideology and to spread it among the Sunni masses, says Gursel.

Islamic State supporters have posted video of a recent meeting just outside Istanbul of hundreds of its followers. The government dismissed it as a publicly stunt. But observers say for many in Turkey it is seen as a harbinger of things to come, pointing out that the repercussions of IS could be far-reaching and traumatic for Turkey.

You May Like

Katrina Brought Enduring Changes to New Orleans

The city’s recovery is the result of the people and culture the city is famous for, as well as newcomers and start-up industries More

China to Open Stock Markets to Pension Funds

In unprecedented move, government to soon allow local pension funds to invest up to $94 billion in domestic shares More

1 Billion People Used Facebook on Single Day

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg praised the accomplishment in a posting on the social media site More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalatesi
X
August 27, 2015 2:08 AM
Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Is China's Economic Data Accurate?

Some investors say China's wild stock market gyrations have been made worse by worries about the reliability of that nation's economic data. And some critics say the reports can mislead investors by painting an unrealistically-strong picture of the economy. A key China scholar says Beijing is not fudging ((manipulating)) the numbers, but that the economy is evolving quickly from smoke-stack industries to services, and the ways of tracking new economic activity are falling behind the change. V
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Shipping Containers Provide Experimental Housing

Housing prices around the San Francisco Bay area are out of reach for many people, so some young entrepreneurs, artists and tech industry workers are creating their own houses using converted shipping containers. But as VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Oakland, the effort requires ingenuity and dealing with restrictive local laws.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video Technique May Eliminate Drill-and-Fill Dental Care

Many people dread visiting dentists because they're afraid of drills. Now, however, a technology developed by a British firm promises to eliminate the need for mechanical cleaning of dental cavities by speeding a natural process of tooth repair. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.
Video

Video French Experiment in Integrating Roma Under Threat

Plans to destroy France’s oldest slum have sparked an outcry on the part of its Roma residents. As Lisa Bryant reports from the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, rights groups argue the community is a fledgling experiment on integrating Roma who are often outcasts in many parts of Europe.
Video

Video Kenyans Turn to Agriculture for Business

Each year Kenyan universities continue to churn out graduates for the job market despite the already existing high rate of unemployment among youth in the country. Some of these young men and women have realized that agriculture can be as rewarding as any other business or job, and they are resorting to agribusiness in large numbers as a way of tackling unemployment. Rael Ombuor reports for VOA.
Video

Video First Women Graduate Elite Army Ranger School

Two women are making history for the U.S. Army by proving they are among the toughest of the tough. VOA's Carla Babb reports from Fort Benning, Georgia as 94 men and those two women rise as graduates of the difficult Ranger school.

VOA Blogs