Sunday, 12 August 2012

A unified Syria without Assad is what Turkmen are after

A unified Syria without Assad is what Turkmen are after

Syrian Turkmen, who stand in support of the territorial integrity of Syria,
Are  concerned that the breakup of the country or the survival of the
Bashar al-Assad regime may leave them exposed to serious threats.
“Syrian Turkmen may come into serious difficulties in either case,”
Tarık Sulo  Cevizci, deputy chairman of the Syria Democratic Turkmen
 Movement, has said.

The representatives of Syrian Turkmen were received for the first
time at the  ministerial level in Turkey on Tuesday, when Foreign
Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu  met with members of the Syria
Democratic Turkmen Movement.

Should the present regime remain in power in Syria, Turkmen
would be targeted  on two counts by the regime. Turkmen are
at the forefront of the resistance,  given the considerable
Turkmen population in places such as Aleppo, Homs  and
 Damascus, where severe clashes have taken place.
And with Turkey’s  anti-Assad stance, Turkmen are viewed
 as unreliable by those in power, whose  anger may focus
 on Turkmen. “Turkmen are seen as an extension of Turkey,
 and they would be made to pay the price,” Cevizci told
Sunday’s Zaman.

A scenario in which Syria would be broken up following the
 fall of the Assad regime  is not at all favored by Turkmen,
 as the population is not so densely concentrated as
 to have an absolute majority in any one part of the country
 but is rather spread
 throughout Syria. In the breakup scenario, three new states
may come into being : a Kurdistan region along the
Turkish-Syrian border, referred to by Kurds as  Western Kurdistan;
a Nusayri state, for which Latakia would be the center, along
 the Mediterranean coast of Syria; and a Sunni Muslim state
in the remaining part  of the country. The first two states
potentially represent a major threat to Turkmen communities.

Should the Kurds move to set up a state in the north of the
country, Turkmen  living in that region would feel themselves
under threat. “The project of Western  Kurdistan has caused
 much anxiety to Turkmen,” Cevizci noted, adding that at
most only 50 percent of the population along Syria’s border
 region with Turkey  is of Kurdish origin, with Turkmen making
 up 30 percent and Arabs estimated  to have a share of 20
 percent of the population of the region, while the area
 from Aleppo to Rakkaq to the Turkish border is a
Turkmen basin. “There are nearly 290 Turkmen villages in
 this region,” Cevizci remarked.

Ziyad Hasan, spokesperson of the Syria Democratic
Turkmen Movement, confirmed the anxiety of Syrian Turkmen
 on the Turkish-Syrian border regarding  the Western Kurdistan
 project of the Kurdish Democratic Union (PYD) -- an
offshoot of the terrorist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
 Hasan stated to  Sunday’s Zaman, “Turkmen in the region are
 afraid of having to migrate,  being massacred or assimilated
[should the project be realized].” Cevizci’s  outlook is equally
gloomy. “Should a Kurdish state be established in this part
 of Syria, it would be the beginning of the end for Turkmen.”

The theoretical Nusayri state along the Mediterranean coast
 of Syria poses  similar threats to Turkmen. In the region
 surrounding Latakia, the third most concentrated area of
Turkmen habitation after Aleppo and Homs, Turkmen
areas have been under bombardment in the recent past,
together with  Turkmen areas of Hamah. “The Syrian regime,
 in an effort to reserve the  area for Nusayris as part of a
worst-case scenario, has been trying to force  Turkmen out
 of the area,” Hasan maintained. In the area stretching from
 the north of Lebanon to Turkey’s Hatay province, there are
 nearly a hundred  Turkmen villages, and the region has a
Turkmen population of 150,000 to  200,000.

The total population of Turkmen in Syria is estimated to
be around 3 to 3.5  million, of whom around 1 to 1.5 million
are able to speak Turkish. The nearly  2 million Turkmen
remaining, though aware of their Turkish origin, do not speak
 Turkish any longer but Arabic. “It’s because after the Ottoman
 Empire lost Syria,  Turkmen here were not allowed to conduct
 any cultural activities in Turkish, let alone learn their language
 at school,” Hasan noted.

In fighting against the Assad regime, Turkmen want to have
 their say on the future of Syria. But as Turkmen were not
organized when the Syrian National Council (SNC) was founded,
 they are not currently represented in that body and consider
 the council flawed due to the resistance of Arab insurgents to the
inclusion of Turkmen. On the other hand, Turkmen were
 represented in a  committee of 21 representatives that met
last week in Egypt to discuss the  way forward for Syria.
“So Turkmen are now in an equivalent position with  other
 insurgent groups,” Cevizci commented. Hasan expressed hope
 that the council would soon move to include Turkmen.

About three months ago, the Turkmen community in Syria,
 organized under  the Syria Democratic Turkmen Movement,
 established several armed Turkmen  brigades, putting the
community in a better position to fight against the Assad
 regime and to defend the areas they live in.

Humanitarian aid to be distributed by opposition
In the meeting on Tuesday with Turkish Foreign Minister
 Ahmet Davutoğlu,  members of the Syria Democratic
 Turkmen Movement suggested that humanitarian aid
to Syria be distributed through organizations such as
 theirs. “The proposal has been positively received by
 Turkish officials,”  said Hasan, spokesperson of the movement.
 Insurgent organizations, after receiving humanitarian aid at
customs points between Syria and Turkey, would then be
responsible for distributing it among those in need.

“In this way, it may be possible to prevent the probable mass
 migration from Aleppo to Turkey,” Cevizci remarked. Seeking
 refuge from the clashes,  250,000 people, about 100,000
 of them Turkmen, have already left Aleppo for surrounding
 villages, with Aleppo, a city of more than 3 million residents,
experiencing major shortages of staple products such as
 food, baby food, gasoline and diesel fuel, as well as medicine.
 Diesel fuel is 15 to 20 times  more expensive than it used
 to be, and there are long queues for bread in the city.
 “When their stock of food runs out, they will turn to Turkey,”
 Cevizci  noted, communicating the urgency of providing
 humanitarian aid to the Syrian people.

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