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.
Rivalry persists between Russia and Turkey in their shared neighbourhood of the Black Sea and the South Caucasus. But Moscow-Ankara relations have warmed overall. Building on their wider rapprochement, the two powers can work together to tamp down flare-ups of regional conflicts.
President Erdoğan won 24 June general election with 52.5% of vote, ahead of Republican People’s Party (CHP) candidate Muharrem İnce’s 30.7%. Erdoğan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) won 293 of 600 parliament seats, and AKP ally Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) 50 seats; CHP won 146 seats; and pro-Kurdish Free Democratic Party (HDP) 67 seats. Amid intensified pressure on Kurdish movement in run-up to 24 June general election, HDP 13 June announced at least 208 party members were detained and 57 offices and booths attacked during campaign period; tensions turned violent 16 June when clash between pro-HDP shopkeepers and AKP delegation in south-eastern HDP-stronghold of Suruç left four dead, including three HDP supporters and brother of an AKP MP. Campaign period also saw opening up of renewed debate on Kurdish demands, with some candidates adopting more constructive stance on Kurdish issue. Security operations in south east against Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK) continued with threefold increase in casualties compared to May, concentrated in rural areas Hakkari and Şırnak. Turkey’s offensive into northern Iraq targeting PKK positions also intensified. Turkey and U.S. 4 June reached roadmap agreement on Manbij district, northern Syria, to ensure withdrawal of Syrian Kurdish militia YPG (People’s Protection Units). UN 11 June expressed concern that fighting and airstrikes in Syria’s Idlib province would create new influx of refugees into Turkey. Reported incidents between Syrian refugees and host communities increased slightly; three killed as argument in southern city Gaziantep escalated into shooting. U.S. Senate 18 June passed bill blocking sale of F-35 jets to Turkey in response to govt’s purchase of air defence missile systems from Russia; relations with U.S. further complicated by ongoing tensions surrounding hydrocarbon drilling in Aegean Sea (see Cyprus). Detentions and arrests of ISIS suspects continued.
Ahead of Turkey’s presidential and parliamentary elections on 24 June, opinion polls suggest a tighter race than many anticipated. The country’s Kurds could be kingmakers, prompting politicians of different stripes to court their votes and opening much-needed debate about longstanding Kurdish demands.
The quarrel between Gulf monarchies has spilled into Somalia, with the fragile state now caught between the rival interests of Qatar and the United Arab Emirates. The competition has already aggravated intra-Somali disputes. All sides should take a step back before these tensions mount further.
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.
The success of the AKP-MHP partnership shows that the Islamist-nationalist fusion is alive and kicking in Turkish society.
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.
Crisis Group's Europe & Central Asia Program Director Magdalena Grono talks about the relations between Russia and Turkey as they reflect on the Black Sea and the South Caucasus.
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.
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.
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.