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

    US-Russia Tensions Complicate Syria War

    With a shared enemy and opposing allies, Russia and the US are working to avoid confrontation

    Video Re-opening Old Wounds in Beirut's Bullet-riddled Yellow House

    Built in neo-Ottoman style in 1920s, it is set to be re-opened in Sept. as ‘memory museum’ - bullet-riddled walls and bunkered positions overlooking city’s notorious ‘Green Line’ maintained for posterity

    Cambodian-Americans Lobby for Human Rights Resolution

    Resolution condemns all forms of political violence in Cambodia, urges Cambodian government to end human rights violations, calls for respect of press freedom

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Brexit Vote Plunges Global Markets Into Uncharted Territoryi
    X
    June 24, 2016 9:38 PM
    British voters plunged global markets into unknown territory after they voted Thursday to leave the European Union. The results of the Brexit vote, the term coined to describe the referendum, caught many off guard. Analysts say the resulting volatility could last for weeks, perhaps longer. Mil Arcega reports.
    Video

    Video Brexit Vote Plunges Global Markets Into Uncharted Territory

    British voters plunged global markets into unknown territory after they voted Thursday to leave the European Union. The results of the Brexit vote, the term coined to describe the referendum, caught many off guard. Analysts say the resulting volatility could last for weeks, perhaps longer. Mil Arcega reports.
    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.
    Video

    Video Tunisian Fishing Town Searches for Jobs, Local Development Solutions

    As the European Union tries to come to grips with its migrant crisis, some newcomers are leaving voluntarily. But those returning to their home countries face an uncertain future.  Five years after Tunisia's revolution, the tiny North African country is struggling with unrest, soaring unemployment and plummeting growth. From the southern Tunisian fishing town of Zarzis, Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at a search for local solutions.
    Video

    Video 'American Troops' in Russia Despite Tensions

    Historic battle re-enactment is a niche hobby with a fair number of adherents in Russia where past military victories are played-up by the Kremlin as a show of national strength. But, one group of World War II re-enactors in Moscow has the rare distinction of choosing to play western ally troops. VOA's Daniel Schearf explains.
    Video

    Video Experts: Very Few Killed in US Gun Violence Are Victims of Mass Shootings

    The deadly shooting at a Florida nightclub has reignited the debate in the U.S. over gun control. Although Congress doesn't provide government health agencies funds to study gun violence, public health experts say private research has helped them learn some things about the issue. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
    Video

    Video Trump Unleashes Broadside Against Clinton to Try to Ease GOP Doubts

    Recent public opinion polls show Republican Donald Trump slipping behind Democrat Hillary Clinton in the presidential election matchup for November. Trump trails her both in fundraising and campaign organization, but he's intensifying his attacks on the former secretary of state. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.
    Video

    Video Muslim American Mayor Calls for Tolerance

    Syrian-born Mohamed Khairullah describes himself as "an American mayor who happens to be Muslim." As the three-term mayor of Prospect Park, New Jersey, he believes his town of 6,000 is an example of how ethnicity and religious beliefs should not determine a community's leadership. Ramon Taylor has this report from Prospect Park.
    Video

    Video Internal Rifts Over Syria Policy Could Be Headache for Next US President

    With the Obama administration showing little outward enthusiasm for adopting a more robust Syria policy, there is a strong likelihood that the internal discontent expressed by State Department employees will roll over to the next administration. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports.
    Video

    Video Senegal to Park Colorful ‘Cars Rapide’ Permanently

    Brightly painted cars rapide are a hallmark of Dakar, offering residents a cheap way to get around the capital city since 1976. But the privately owned minibuses are scheduled to be parked for good in late 2018, as Ricci Shryock reports for VOA.
    Video

    Video Florida Gets $1 Million in Emergency Government Funding for Orlando

    The U.S. government has granted $1 million in emergency funding to the state of Florida to cover the costs linked to the June 12 massacre in Orlando. U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced the grant Tuesday in Orlando, where she met with survivors of the shooting attack that killed 49 people. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video How to Print Impossible Shapes with Metal

    3-D printing with metals is rapidly becoming more advanced. As printers become more affordable, the industry is partnering with universities to refine processes for manufacturing previously impossible things. A new 3-D printing lab aims to bring the new technology closer to everyday use. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Big Somali Community in Minnesota Observes Muslim Religious Feast

    Ramadan is widely observed in the north central US state of Minnesota, which a large Muslim community calls home. VOA Somali service reporter Mohmud Masadde files this report from Minneapolis, the state's biggest city.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora