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.
Number of fatalities and attacks in conflict between Turkey and Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in south east went down compared to previous month; fatalities were concentrated in rural areas of Hakkari and Diyarbakır. By three-year anniversary of breakdown of ceasefire with PKK 20 July, Crisis Group had recorded almost 4,000 fatalities. Military conducted at least five major air operations hitting PKK targets in northern Iraq around Qandil during month. Govt crackdown on Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) continued: court 10 July sentenced two previous HDP deputies to fifteen months in prison based on claims they disobeyed law on meetings and demonstrations; authorities launched investigations into four newly elected HDP MPs over “terrorist propaganda” charges after they attended funerals of PKK militants. Govt 18 July lifted state of emergency introduced following July 2016 coup attempt, in move expected to ease economic and political tensions, however ruling Justice and Development Party (AK) 25 July passed bill amending Turkey’s anti-terror law retaining some contentious provisions. Anti-Islamic State (ISIS) operations continued with further arrests. In northern Syria, Turkey and U.S. continued coordinated patrols around Manbij as part of their negotiated roadmap (see Syria). Relations with U.S. remain strained; FM Çavuşoglu confirmed during 11-12 July NATO summit that Turkey would complete contentious purchase of Russian S-400 missiles by end-2019. Tensions increased after Turkish court 25 July ruled to put jailed U.S. Pastor Andrew Brunson under house arrest (U.S. had expected his release). President Erdoğan met Russian President Putin on sidelines of BRICS summit in Johannesburg 26 July, reportedly discussing bilateral ties, Syria and upcoming Tehran summit (as part of Astana process dialogue on Syria conflict). Cooperation with EU on Syrian refugees continued with EU’s late June allocation of second tranche of €3bn to assist with Syrian refugees’ basic needs and integration. Tensions between Syrian refugees and host communities flared 2 July with fight in Bursa city, south of Istanbul, prompting some 500 residents to protest Syrian presence and vandalise Syrian-owned shops.
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.