News / Middle East

Turkey Worries Syria's Refugee Influx Could Cause Crisis

Dorian Jones

Hundreds of Syrian refugees have fled across the border into Turkey to escape the ongoing crackdown on anti-government protests.  The influx has added to growing Turkish concerns that the deepening crisis in Syria could lead to the country facing a refugee crisis.  

Nearly 250 Syrians recently crossed into Turkey seeking refuge.

Some belong to Syria's Turkish minority, like this woman:

"My husband and I came because of the situation there," she said.  "Four people were killed in front of his eyes.  So we ran away.  All our lives are in danger."

The refugees were housed in an indoor sports stadium, while a tent village was constructed by the Red Crescent Society.

With the crisis in Syria continuing to deepen, Turkish authorities are bracing themselves for more arrivals.

Turkish President Abdullah Gul, speaking on Monday, said Turkey is preparing to deal with a possible influx of refugees, saying authorities are taking measures to be ready for the worst-case scenario.

There are no entry restrictions on Syrians entering Turkey, following last year's lifting of visa requirements by both countries.

Senior Turkish diplomat Selim Yenel says despite the crisis, there are no plans to suspend the agreement, at least for now.

"No, No, No, we hope this will not be the case, we are not in that situation right now," said Yenel. "We do hope things will go on peacefully.  That we are in close contact with Damascus.  We are talking with them.  And we are following things very closel, and therefore such a thing to happen."

But its not only a potential refugee crisis that is causing increasing concern in Ankara.  Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan voiced his fear of a potential break up of Syria.

"Turkey definitely does not want a separation of Syria, said Prime Minister Erdogan. "And Syria should not allow any attempts that could pave the way for separation."

Syria, like Turkey, has a restive Kurdish minority.  Since 1984, the Turkish-based Kurdish rebel group, the PKK, has been fighting the Turkish state for greater cultural and political rights.  According to international relations expert and columnist for a Turkish daily, Soli Ozel, the chaos in Syria offers the PKK a powerful impetus, especially as it has close ties with Syria's own large Kurdish minority.

"Now a third of the fighters of PKK happened to be from Syria," said Ozel. "If the country divides along sectarian or ethnic lines, possibility of a Kurdish desire for an independence in the north of Syria obviously is going to throw Turkey off balance."

Turkey's 800-kilometer border with Syria runs along its predominantly Kurdish southeast.  And most of Syria's Kurdish minority lives just on the other side of it.

According to analysts, Syrian President Bashir al-Assad has controlled his own Kurdish population with an iron fist.  He is widely believed to be playing on Turkish fears that if that fist were relaxed, the Kurds would secede.  But Syrian opposition groups are keen to stress that is just scaremongering.

Anas Abdah is head of the international branch of Damascus Declaration, an opposition umbrella group.

"Think this is very important for the Turkish people and Turkish leadership to understand, the fact that the Kurdish element in Syria, which is around 2 million, or about 9 percent of the population is not going to react in a way, which will mean a secession of Syrian land or any kind of problems with the neighbor, either Turkey or Iraq," said Anas Abdah.

Political scientist Nuray Mert is suspicious of such assurances.  She thinks that spreading regional turmoil may offer Kurds across the whole region a unique opportunity.

"Syrian Kurds are against the existing regime, the Iranian Kurds are against Ahmadinejad regime, and they may have some role in regime changes in the region," said Nuray Mert. "And it empowers the PKK movement and Turkish Kurds' political movement.  Because anyway we have huge problems concerning Kurdish problem in Turkey."

Observers warn that the prospect of Kurds in neighboring Iran and Syria, freed from oppressive regimes and joining their Iraqi counterparts, who already have substantial autonomy, could rekindle the dream for many Turkish Kurds of an independent state.  For Ankara, that would be a nightmare.

You May Like

Video Miami Cubans Divided on New US Policy

While older, more conservative Cuban Americans have promoted anti-Castro political movement for years, younger generations say economically, it is time for change More

2014 Sees Dramatic Uptick in Boko Haram Abductions

Militants suspected in latest mass kidnapping of over 100 people in Gumsuri, Nigeria on Sunday More

Video Cuba Deal Is Major Victory for Pope

Role of Francis hailed throughout US, Latin America - though some Cuban-American Catholics have mixed feelings More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
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.
Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacksi
X
December 19, 2014 12:45 AM
The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Putin Says Russian Economy Will Emerge Stronger

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said his country's sinking economy will not only recover but also become stronger, despite falling oil prices and Western sanctions over Ukraine. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Detained Turkish Journalists Follow Teachings of US-Based Preacher

The Turkish government’s jailing of critical journalists has sparked international condemnation and is being seen as an effort to undermine the followers of an ailing Turkish preacher based in the United States. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video ‘Anti-Islamization’ Marches Increase Tensions In Germany

Anti-immigrant rallies in Germany have been building in recent weeks, peaking Monday night in the city of Dresden where tens of thousands of people turned out to demonstrate against what they call the ‘Islamization’ of the West. Germany has offered asylum to more Syrian refugees than any other country, and this appears to have set off the protests. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.
Video

Video Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countries

Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.

All About America

AppleAndroid