News / Europe

Turkish Polls Show Waning Support for Ankara's Syria Policy

Turkish soldiers take security measures on a main road which connects eastern Turkish cities Bingol and Mus, as smoke rises from a burning vehicle attacked by PKK in the background, September 18, 2012.
Turkish soldiers take security measures on a main road which connects eastern Turkish cities Bingol and Mus, as smoke rises from a burning vehicle attacked by PKK in the background, September 18, 2012.
Dorian Jones
A recent opinion poll in Turkey found that only 18 percent of Turks back their government's support for the Syrian opposition. The poll was the latest in the last few months showing a collapse in public support and putting pressure on the government to address its Syria policy. 

Syria policy

Turkish officials stand behind their Syria policy, and the problems have posed little threat to the moderately Islamist government of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

But as opinion polls indicate declining domestic support, Turkish leaders are finding it increasingly difficult to manage the fallout after turning against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad last year.

Diplomatic columnist Semih Idiz of the Turkish newspaper Milliyet says the collapse in support comes from a growing realization of a flawed government policy based on the expectation that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad would quickly fall.

"Yes I do think that we will probably see a change in policy in the next months, especially if Assad or his regime appear to be hanging on," he says. "It will manifest itself with more ecumenical initiatives, less appearing to take sides."

Public opinion

Turkey's long border with Syria made the conflict a difficult situation for the Turks since the beginning. Turkish media and opposition politicians have painted the situation as a policy failure. Also swaying public opinion is Erdogan's failure to allow the United Nations to help Turkey with the swelling refugee population, and the friction caused by allowing Sunni rebels and refugees to concentrate in the largely Alawite province of Hatay. The Alawites are a Shi'ite sect that dominates the Syrian regime, while the populations of Syria and Turkey are majority Sunni.

Suat Kiniklioglu, a former member of parliament's foreign affairs committee for the ruling AK party, acknowledges such criticism has gained traction in Turkish public opinion.

"Yes we are aware of that and that's a problem we have to grapple with," he says. "For us, the number one priority right now is for the Assad regime to go and a new Syria to be formed and I think in the long run Turkey's position will be better appreciated."

Public discontent

But analysts speculate the main factor behind the growing public discontent over Turkey's Syria policy involves the deadly battles in the southeast between security forces and the Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, which has waged a separatist insurgency for 28 years.

Sinan Ulgen of the Istanbul-based research institute EDAM says Turkish officials are accusing Syria of arming the guerrillas and empowering a PKK offshoot along the Syria-Turkey border.

"The government is aware that its positioning is costing in terms of popularity because now many Turks associate the rise of PKK terrorism with the government's assertive policy on Syria," says Ulgen. "But I think the government invested heavily in its current position, supporting both the civilian and the military arm of the Syrian opposition. So in a way Turkey's only way forward is to continue with this policy and try to precipitate regime change in Syria."

PKK attacks

On Tuesday, the PKK killed at least seven Turkish soldiers and wounded more than 50 in an ambush in Turkey's southeast. In the past few days, 12 other police and soldiers have died in similar attacks. The last 12 months have been the bloodiest since the peak of the conflict in the 1990s.

But political columnist Asli Aydintasbas of the Turkish newspaper Milliyet argues Ankara needs to change its domestic policy rather than its Syria policy.

"Turkey has to be nervous about any Kurds anywhere as long as they refuse to deal with their Kurdish issue," she says. "Turkey has to make peace with its own Kurds in order to be able to play a significant role in Syria, Iraq, in this region."

Prime Minister Erdogan has promised a firm military response until the PKK lays down its arms, claiming more than 500 rebels had been killed in the past month.   However, political observers here warn that with every successful PKK attack, public discontent over Ankara's Syria policy may grow.

You May Like

Beloved Lion Killing Sparks Virtual, Real Life Outrage

Twitter, as usual, was epicenter for anger directed at Palmer, with some questioning his manhood, calling for him to be released into the wild More

Video Booming London Property Market a Haven for Dirty Money

Billions of dollars from proceeds of crime, especially from Russia, being laundered through London property market, according to anti-corruption activists More

Video Scouts' Decision on Gays Meets Acceptance in Founder's Hometown

One former Scout leader thinks organization will move past political, social debate, get back to its primary focus of turning boys into good citizens More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’i
X
July 29, 2015 9:34 PM
Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Scouts' Decision on Gays Meets Acceptance in Founder's Hometown

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video 'Metal Muscles' Flex a New Bionic Hand

Artificial limbs, including the most complex of them – the human hand – are getting more life-like and useful due to constant advances in tiny hydraulic, pneumatic and electric motors called actuators. But now, as VOA’s George Putic reports, scientists in Germany say the future of the prosthetic hand may lie not in motors but in wires that can ‘remember’ their shape.
Video

Video Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponents

A British pro-democracy group has accused Russia of abusing the global law enforcement agency Interpol by requesting the arrest and extradition of political opponents. A new report by the group notes such requests can mean the accused are unable to travel and are often unable to open bank accounts. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video 'Positive Atmosphere' Points Toward TPP Trade Deal in Hawaii

Talks on a major new trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations are said to be nearing completion in Hawaii. Some trade experts say the "positive atmosphere" at the discussions could mean a deal is within reach, but there is still hard bargaining to be done over many issues and products, including U.S. drugs and Japanese rice. VOA's Jim Randle reports.
Video

Video Genome Initiative Urgently Moves to Freeze DNA Before Species Go Extinct

Earth is in the midst of its sixth mass extinction. The last such event was caused by an asteroid 66 million years ago. It killed off the dinosaurs and practically everything else. So scientists are in a race against time to classify the estimated 11 million species alive today. So far only 2 million are described by science, and researchers are worried many will disappear before they even have a name. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Scientists: One-Dose Malaria Cure is Possible

Scientists have long been trying to develop an effective protection and cure for malaria - one of the deadliest diseases that affects people in tropical areas, especially children. As the World Health Organization announces plans to begin clinical trials of a promising new vaccine, scientists in South Africa report that they too are at an important threshold. George Putic reports, they are testing a compound that could be a single-dose cure for malaria.
Video

Video 'New York' Magazine Features 35 Cosby Accusers

The latest issue of 'New York' magazine features 35 women who say they were drugged and raped by film and television celebrity Bill Cosby. The women are aged from 44 to 80 and come from different walks of life and races. The magazine interviewed each of them separately, but Zlatica Hoke reports their stories are similar.
Video

Video US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Win

The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video Washington DC Underground Streetcar Station to Become Arts Venue

Abandoned more than 50 years ago, the underground streetcar station in Washington D.C.’s historic DuPont Circle district is about to be reborn. The plan calls for turning the spacious underground platforms - once meant to be a transportation hub, - into a unique space for art exhibitions, presentations, concerts and even a film set. Roman Mamonov has more from beneath the streets of the U.S. capital. Joy Wagner narrates his report.
Video

Video Europe’s Twin Crises Collide in Greece as Migrant Numbers Soar

Greece has replaced Italy as the main gateway for migrants into Europe, with more than 100,000 arrivals in the first six months of 2015. Many want to move further into Europe and escape Greece’s economic crisis, but they face widespread dangers on the journey overland through the Balkans. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Stink Intensifies as Lebanon’s Trash Crisis Continues

After the closure of a major rubbish dump a week ago, the streets of Beirut are filling up with trash. Having failed to draw up a plan B, politicians are struggling to deal with the problem. John Owens has more for VOA from Beirut.
Video

Video Paris Rolls Out Blueprint to Fight Climate Change

A U.N. climate conference in December aims to produce an ambitious agreement to fight heat-trapping greenhouse gases. But many local governments are not waiting, and have drafted their own climate action plans. That’s the case with Paris — which is getting special attention, since it’s hosting the climate summit. Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at the transformation of the French capital into an eco-city.
Video

Video Racially Diverse Spider-Man Takes Center Stage

Whether it’s in a comic book or on the big screen, fans have always known the man behind the Spider-Man mask as Peter Parker. But that is changing, at least in the comic book world. Marvel Comics announced that a character called Miles Morales will replace Peter Parker as Spider-Man in a new comic book series. He is half Latino, half African American, and he is quite popular among comic book fans. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports from Los Angeles.
Video

Video Historic Symbol Is Theme of Vibrant New Show

A new exhibit in Washington is paying tribute to the American flag with a wide and eclectic selection of artwork that uses the historic symbol as its central theme. VOA’s Julie Taboh was at the DC Chamber of Commerce for the show’s opening.

VOA Blogs