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.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is shaping a narrative of a country under siege, a victim of Western powers both in history and in today’s Syrian war. While this rhetoric is popular, a broader platform is needed to bridge sharp divisions in society and mend relations with longstanding Euro-Atlantic allies.
Military operations in south east continued, with near fourfold increase in fatalities in March and April (30 state security force members, at least 41 Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) militants, three civilians) compared to Jan-Feb (nine security force members, at least eleven PKK militants). Fatalities in April concentrated mostly in Şırnak, Hakkari and Hatay. Military continued cross-border attacks in northern Iraq targeting PKK positions; security sources 28 March reported military establishing new base in Hakkari’s Şemdinli district near Iraqi border to combat PKK. Crackdown on Kurdish movement members/sympathisers continued. President Erdoğan 18 April called for early presidential and parliamentary elections to be held 24 June. Govt extended state of emergency for seventh time hours after election announcement, prompting small-scale opposition protests across country. EU annual progress report 17 April for Turkey, considered most negative to date, underlined govt’s “legitimate right to fight against terrorism” and praised efforts to integrate Syrian refugees, but was highly critical of country’s democratic trajectory, erosion of rule of law and limiting of freedoms, argued that Turkey moving away from EU; also stressed that security measures should be proportionate; highlighted problem of immunity of security forces for reported killings in anti-PKK operations. Tensions between Greece and Turkey mounted as latter continued to hold two Greek soldiers who crossed into Turkish territory early March. Greece 10 April shot at Turkish helicopter near islet of Ro; Greek fighter jet 12 April crashed into Aegean while returning from intercept mission, resulting in death of pilot. Turkish media reported 27 April that security forces had caught Islamic State (ISIS) suspect in western Izmir province who reportedly had functioned as organisation’s “emir” in Syria’s Deir al-Zour, and mingled with Syrian refugees attempting to cross to Europe.
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.
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.
Originally published in Turkish Policy Quarterly