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

    Pentagon: Afghan Hospital Bombing Not a War Crime

    US Central Command's Joseph Votel says probe found tragedy was result of 'extraordinarily intense situation' that included multiple equipment failures

    US Minorities Link Guns with Other Social Ills

    New study finds reduction in gun violence could help lower America’s incarceration rate – the world’s highest - and improve relationships between police, citizens in minority communities

    US Millennials Beat Baby Boomers as Largest Living Generation

    America's young people are about to take over and here's what we can expect from them

    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.
    Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensionsi
    X
    April 29, 2016 12:28 AM
    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Turkey Islamists

    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Master Mohammad Ayub runs a makeshift school in a public park in Islamabad. Thousands of poor children have benefited from his services over the years, but, as VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem reports, roughly 25 million school-age youths don't get an education in Pakistan.
    Video

    Video Florida’s Weeki Wachee ‘Mermaids’ Make a Splash

    Since 1947, ‘mermaids’ have fascinated tourists at central Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with their fluid movements and synchronized ballet. Performing underwater has its challenges, including cold temperatures and a steady current, as VOA’s Lin Yang and Joseph Mok report.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Bangladesh Targeted Killings Spark Wave of Fear

    People in Bangladesh’s capital are expressing deep concern over the brutal attacks that have killed secular blogger, and most recently a gay rights activist and an employee of the U.S. embassy. Xulhaz Mannan, an embassy protocol officer and the editor of the country’s only gay and transgender magazine Roopban; and his friend Mehboob Rabbi Tanoy, a gay rights activist, were hacked to death by five attackers in Mannan’s Dhaka home earlier this month.
    Video

    Video Documentary Tells Tale of Chernobyl Returnees

    Ukraine this week is marking the 30th anniversary of the world's worst nuclear accident, at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Soviet officials at first said little about the accident, but later evacuated a 2,600-square-kilometer "exclusion zone." Some people, though, came back. American directors Holly Morris and Anne Bogart created a documentary about this faithful and brave community. VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko reports from New York on "The Babushkas of Chernobyl." Carol Pearson narrates.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.
    Video

    Video  Return to the Wild

    There’s a growing trend in the United States to let old or underused golf courses revert back to nature. But as Erika Celeste reports from one parcel in Grafton, Ohio, converting 39 hectares of land back to green space is a lot more complicated than just not mowing the fairway.
    Video

    Video West Urges Unity in Libya as Migrant Numbers Soar

    The Italian government says a NATO-led mission aimed at stemming the flow of migrants from Libya to Europe could be up and running by July. There are concerns that the number of migrants could soar as the route through Greece and the Balkans remains blocked. Western powers say the political chaos in Libya is being exploited by people smugglers — and they are pressuring rival groups to come together under the new unity government. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Russia’s TV Rain Swims Against Tide in Sea of Kremlin Propaganda

    Russia’s media freedoms have been gradually eroded under President Vladimir Putin as his government has increased state ownership, influence, and restrictions on critical reporting. Television, where most Russians get their news, has been the main target and is now almost completely state controlled. But in the Russian capital, TV Rain stands out as an island in a sea of Kremlin propaganda.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora