Are refugee camps re-supplying Syrian rebels?
Unless you’ve been living in a cave this summer, you know that Turkey’s increasingly Islamist supremacist President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, incidentally often identified as Obama’s only real friend among world leaders (here he names five friends), is having serious domestic problems stemming from his people, mostly the young, who do not want Turkey to become a theocracy. LOL! I bet he is watching Egypt very closely!
Now it seems his problems could get worse because he “welcomed” tens of thousands of Syrian refugees to Turkey who are now, to put it mildly, rubbing the locals the wrong way.
Domestic developments in Turkey have turned public focus away from Ankara’s growing problem with Syrian refugees. Caught between its welcoming rhetoric toward predominantly Sunni Syrians fleeing the wrath of Bashar al-Assad, and the realities on the ground in Turkey, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is finding it increasingly difficult to cope with the problem. All the while, he complains about the lack of international support in this regard.
Meanwhile, unease grows in Turkish towns and cities near the Syrian border where large numbers of Alevis sympathetic to Assad live. It seems that the welcome extended to fleeing Syrians by Ankara is wearing thin among locals, who are turning against the refugees, accusing them of disrupting the normal life of the region.
After a lament about how much all of this is costing Turkey, and that the international community isn’t helping much, comes this dynamite bit of news—refugee camps may be resting places for Sunni-fighters traveling back and forth to Syria.
Meanwhile, Kirisci (Kemal Kirisci, from the Brookings Institution in Washington), like other observers — including the ICG — indicates that the Turkish public appears to be increasingly wary of the presence of an ever-growing number of refugees. “There are reports of complaints about property rents rising in towns and cities close to the border areas as well as about wages being pushed down by refugees who take up jobs in the border regions,” Kirisci wrote in his blog post. [Ho hum, refugees take jobs and limited rental properties from locals, what else is new!—ed]
Referring to the issue of local discontent, the ICG indicated in April that several of the camps in Turkey are being used by predominantly Sunni opposition fighters from Syria as off-duty resting places to visit their families, receive medical services and purchase supplies. (Are they picking up American weapons there too?—ed)
“This is exacerbating sensitive ethnic and sectarian balances, particularly in Hatay province, where more than one third of the population is of Arab Alevi descent and directly related to Syria’s Alawites,” said the report. Local discontent with the Syrian refugees is, however, not just restricted to the Alevis.
Then there was the thwarted kidnapping of a child (by Syrians) from a prominent Turkish family:
Anger toward the Syrians peaked after the twin car bomb attacks in the town of Reyhanli, near the Syrian border, on May 11. About 53 people, mostly Sunnis, were killed in the atrocity allegedly perpetrated by pro-Assad operatives in Turkey, who were later arrested and now face trials. There were angry demonstrations in Reyhanli against the refugees after the bombing by nationalist elements, leaving many Syrians in doubt as to whether they are safe in Turkey.
Already faced with difficulties as a result of their burgeoning numbers, Syrian refugees also have to cope with claims that are bound to agitate local Turks. Sefik Cirkin, a deputy for Hatay from the ultra-nationalist and predominantly Sunni National Movement Party (MHP), for example, said in June that some Syrians had been thwarted by the Turkish police as they tried to abduct the child of a prominent Turkish family in the region.
Indicating that Reyhanli and Antakya, the capital of Hatay province, were “sitting on a social bomb,” as some tried to ignite sectarian conflict between local Alevis and Sunnis, Cirkin went on to ask in a loaded fashion, “What would have happened if this child had been abducted?”
Erdogan has problems! (no kidding!), and I hope they become so great (refugees cost a fortune!) that he must stop building the massive Islamic center in Maryland!
The last thing Erdogan needs at a time when he is facing nationwide protests by anti-government elements, that are also angry over his failed Syria policy, is to have an Alevi-Sunni conflict on his hands, a prospect that has never been far from the surface in Turkey. Some would argue that he himself fueled sectarian animosity with his pro-Sunni Syrian policy.