Turkey faces myriad internal and external challenges, including an escalating conflict with Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) militants, a crisis over three million Syrian refugees, threats posed by the Islamic State (ISIS), and growing social and political polarisation exacerbated by a July 2016 coup attempt. Crisis Group maintains a unique tracker of the death toll in the PKK conflict and conducts field research to prevent, mitigate or end deadly violence and its consequences. Our ten-year-old presence in Turkey puts us in a unique position to engage the government and all parties not just on domestic crises but also to help Turkey stabilise its exceptionally turbulent neighbourhood.
Sultangazi is home to a mix of religious and ethnic groups – as well as 50,000 Syrian refugees. The district received the refugees warmly. But resentment is rising, as public services suffer and opposition forces suspect the ruling party of using refugees to exacerbate social divisions.
Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) claimed 1 Feb explosion at tax office in Ankara which slightly injured three civilians. Military operations against PKK militants in rural areas of south east continued but with few fatalities, most likely due to harsh winter conditions and shift of focus to Ankara’s Afrin operation which began 20 Jan. Crackdown against Democratic People’s Party (HDP) functionaries and Kurdish movement members continued, including launch of criminal investigation into newly-elected HDP co-chair Pervin Buldan and MP Sırrı Süreyya Önder over their criticism of military operation in Afrin during HDP party congress 11 Feb. Some 900 individuals, mostly Kurdish movement members or supporters, detained during month charged with spreading “terrorism propaganda” for sharing social media posts critical of Afrin operation. Ankara continued military incursion into northern Syria’s Afrin district (see Syria); military 25 Feb announced it had “neutralised” more than 2,000 militants so far; 26 Feb reportedly took control of area around Afrin, circling it from three sides. Turkish media 24 Feb reported 32 soldiers killed in operation. President Erdoğan 20 Feb said offensive would continue into Afrin city centre. Erdoğan and other officials during month said they would move forward with operation into Manbij to expel Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG). Turkish-U.S. relations remained strained: Ankara reacted strongly to Pentagon’s 12 Feb request for some $300mn to train and equip YPG-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), while U.S. complained Afrin operation was hampering efforts to maintain focus on fight against ISIS and had increased security risk for U.S. special forces; U.S. Secretary State Rex Tillerson’s 15-16 Feb visit to Ankara helped ease tensions. Crackdown on individuals suspected to have connections to jihadist networks in Turkey continued, including reported detention of over 100 ISIS suspects, mostly foreign nationals, during police operations in Istanbul 2 and 17 Feb.
Host community hostility toward Syrian refugees is on the rise in Turkey’s metropolitan areas. In order to defuse tensions and mitigate rising intercommunal tensions, Ankara and its international partners should support long-term strategies for the Syrians’ sustainable integration.
The Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) and its Syrian affiliates face a stark choice: risk their gains in northern Syria through continued prioritisation of the PKK's fight against Turkey, or pursue local self-rule in the area they have carved out of the chaos of the Syrian war.
With one quarter of its inhabitants’ homes destroyed in the past year, Nusaybin is a victim of Turkey’s 33-year conflict with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). The state has taken economic steps to help the town, but outreach and Kurdish rights must be improved to prevent new flare ups.
New frictions in Iraq and Syria threaten Ankara and Tehran’s usually peaceful management of their Middle East rivalries. To rebuild trust and avert open conflict, they should coordinate de-escalation, exchange intelligence and designate representatives to open a new channel between their leaders.
Turkey is under growing pressure from nearly three million Syrian refugees. To mitigate domestic tensions and spillover from regional conflicts, Ankara needs to develop, and find support for, new policies that open refugees’ routes to jobs, education and permanent legal status.
Around 900 people, including 350 members of the security forces, have been killed in fighting since peace talks broke down last July between the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and Turkey. As insurgents mix with civilians and rights are violated, some of the worst affected are ordinary people like those in south-eastern Diyarbakır’s district of Sur.
Russia needs both the Syrian regime and Turkey. So it has to give a little bit to both and it has to ... make them equally angry, if that's what it wants.
The most worrisome development that we saw was that among Turkish citizens there is a negative stance towards the long-term integration of Syrians across the political spectrum.
Saying that Afrin will be returned to its rightful owners will leave many people wondering if they can return after the fighting [between Turkey and Kurdish forces in northern Syria] is over.
[If Washington and Ankara do not set the necessary de-escalation mechanism], things could get especially messy if Turkey expands operation to Manbij as U.S. and Turkish forces could collide.
[The Turkish offensive targeting Afrin] highlights the fundamental difficulty of a U.S. strategy that requires maintaining active alliances with two forces which are at war with each other.
[The war initiated by Turkey’s military and its Syrian proxies] is likely to prove indecisive and costly for both sides.
Ein Gespräch mit Berkay Mandıracı von der „International Crisis Group Istanbul“ über soziale Spannungen in türkischen Großstädten, die Unterstützung der EU und die Rolle der Flüchtlinge in der türkischen Außenpolitik.
Originally published in Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung
Çok sayıda Suriyeliye ev sahipliği yapan ve son dönemde kimi sosyal gerilimlerin yaşandığı İstanbul, Ankara ve İzmir’in bazı mahallelerinde kapsamlı saha araştırmamızın sonucunda 29 Ocak 2018 tarihinde “Türkiye’deki Suriyeliler: Kentsel Gerilimleri Azaltmak” adlı raporumuz İngilizce olarak yayınlandı. Bu Bilgi Notu, özellikle Ankara karar alıcıları ve yereldeki yetkili mercilere yönelik rapordaki çözüm önerilerini özetlemektedir.
Crisis Group’s Turkey Project Director Nigar Göksel talks about identity politics and growing frictions in the job market between Syrian refugees and host communities in the refugee-dense neighbourhoods of Turkey’s major western cities.
Originally published in Turkish Policy Quarterly
The Syrian civil war has exposed Turkey to an unprecedented influx of refugees, totaling more than 3.2 million since the start of the crisis. While the backlash has been less serious than anticipated, violence against refugees and asylum seekers is on the rise and the integration of Syrians into Turkish society remains extremely limited. In this excerpt from the Watch List 2017 – Third Update early warning report for European policy makers, Crisis Group urges the European Union and its member states to support the integration of Syrian refugees in order to defuse the risk of worsening inter-communal confrontation.