A unified Syria without Assad is what Turkmen are after
12 August 2012 / AYDIN ALBAYRAK, ANKARA
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
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.