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

China’s Influence Grows With New Infrastructure Bank

Multibillion-dollar China-backed and BRICS-supported Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank seen as possible challenger to such lenders as IMF, World Bank More

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

Rabbi Michel Serfaty makes the rounds in his friendship bus to encourage dialogue and break down barriers between the two groups More

Post-deal Iran Leaders Need 'Economic Momentum' to Solidify

Economists say deal could inject more than $100 billion into coffers - not enough to entirely rescue ailing economy - but maybe adequate to create 'economic momentum' More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Gay Marriage Ruling Yields Real-life Impacti
X
Michael Bowman
June 28, 2015 10:05 PM
Friday’s landmark Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage throughout the United States is an outcome few thought possible just years ago, and shows a nation that increasingly tolerates and even celebrates the hopes and aspirations of gay people. VOA’s Michael Bowman spoke to a same-sex couple that will benefit from the high court ruling, and to a Christian scholar who is apprehensive about its potential consequences for America’s faith community.
Video

Video US Gay Marriage Ruling Yields Real-life Impact

Friday’s landmark Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage throughout the United States is an outcome few thought possible just years ago, and shows a nation that increasingly tolerates and even celebrates the hopes and aspirations of gay people. VOA’s Michael Bowman spoke to a same-sex couple that will benefit from the high court ruling, and to a Christian scholar who is apprehensive about its potential consequences for America’s faith community.
Video

Video Syrians Flee IS Advance in Hasaka

The Syrian government said Monday it has taken back one of several districts in Hasaka overrun by Islamic State militants. But continued fighting elsewhere in the northern city has forced thousands of civilians from their homes. In this report narrated by Bill Rodgers, VOA Kurdish Service reporter Zana Omer describes the scene in Amouda, where some of the displaced are taking refuge.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video S. Korea Christians Protest Gay Rights Festival

The U.S. Supreme Court decision mandating marriage equality nationwide has energized gay rights supporters around the world. Gay rights remain a highly contentious issue in a key U.S. ally, South Korea, where police did a deft job Sunday of preventing potential clashes between Christian protesters and gay activists. Kurt Achin reports from Seoul.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Nubians in Kenya Face Land Challenges

East Africa's ethnic Nubians have a rich cultural history that dates back thousands of years, but in Kenya they are facing hardships, including the loss of lands they have lived on for generations. They say the government has reneged on its pledge to award them title deeds for the plots. VOA's Lenny Ruvaga reports.
Video

Video Syrian Refugees Return to Tal Abyad

Syrian refugees in Turkey confirm they left their hometown of Tal Abyad because of intense fighting and coalition airstrikes, not because Kurdish fighters were engaged in ethnic cleansing, as some Turkish officials charged. VOA Kurdish Service reporter Zana Omer, in Tal Abyad, finds that civilians coming back to the town agree, as we hear in this report narrated by Roger Wilkison.
Video

Video Military Experts Question New Russian Tank Capabilities

Russia has been showing off its new tank design – the Armata T-14. Designers claim it is 20 years ahead of current Western designs - and driving it feels like playing a computer game. But military analysts question those assertions, and warn the cost could be too heavy a burden for Russia’s struggling economy. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.
Video

Video In Syrian Crisis, Social Media Offer Small Comforts

Za’atari, a makeshift city in Jordan, may be the only Syrian refugee camp to tweet its activities, in an effort to keep donors motivated as the war in Syria intensifies and the humanitarian crisis deepens. Inside the camp, families say mobile phone applications help hold together families that are physically torn apart. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.
Video

Video Chemical-Sniffing Technology Fights Australia's Graffiti Vandals

Cities and towns all over the world spend huge amounts of resources battling graffiti writers who deface buildings, public transport vehicles and even monuments. Authorities in Sydney, Australia, hope a new chemical-sniffing technology finally will stop vandals from scribbling on walls in the passenger areas of commuter trains. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Cambodia Struggling to Curb Child Labor

Earlier this year a United Nations report found 10 percent of Cambodian children aged 7-14 are working – one of the highest rates in the region – and said one in four children in that age bracket are forced to quit school to help their families. Although the child labor rate has dropped over the past decade, Cambodia has a lot more to do – including keeping more children in school. Robert Carmichael reports for VOA from Phnom Penh.

VOA Blogs