• The Heritage Network
    • Resize:
    • A
    • A
    • A
  • Donate
  • Syrian Crisis Emboldens Kurds, Is Problematic for Turkey

    Turkish fears of an emboldened Kurdish population in Syria are rising. Since the Syrian uprising began in February 2011, Syria’s Kurdish population has taken advantage of the power vacuum in the country’s north and sought to expand its influence.

    Since last summer, the Syrian government’s mass killing of civilians has made President Bashar al-Assad persona non grata with the Turkish government. Likewise, the Turkish government’s calls for Assad’s removal and its harboring of the Syrian National Council (Syria’s umbrella opposition group) and 20,000–30,000 Syrian refugees hasn’t endeared Turkish leaders to Assad, either.

    In response, Assad has loosened his grip on the Kurdish population, including militants, using them as a proxy force against Turkey. Earlier this year, the Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK), a group designated by the U.S. and Turkey as a terrorist organization, threatened to turn northern Syria into a “war zone” if Turkish troops entered Syria. And last month, Kurdish fighters captured Syrian towns across the northern border with Turkey.

    This isn’t the first time Assad has deliberately allowed Kurdish militants to threaten Turkish security. In the 1980s, Assad’s father, and former President Hafez al-Assad, allowed the PKK to establish facilities in the Syrian-dominated Beqaa Valley in Lebanon. Relations became so hostile that in 1998, Turkey threatened to invade Syria. Damascus quickly backed down, and Assad expelled PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan from the country.

    Ankara fears that Kurdish gains will lead to the establishment of a Kurdish state—or at least an autonomous Kurdish region similar to the one in northern Iraq—which would imperil Turkish borders. However, Turkish sources, such as the daily newspaper Today’s Zaman, wrongly argue that the Kurdish population’s ability to extend its influence is a sign that it is in cahoots with the Assad regime. On the contrary, Kurds are mobilizing in an effort to favorably position themselves in a post-Assad Syria.

    Mustafa Gundogdu at the Kurdish Human Rights Project argues that the Kurds have “forged a third way,” seeing Assad’s fall as an opportunity to fulfill their long-term interests. Though no friend to the Assad regime, Kurds are also wary of Islamist opposition groups. As such, they want to be in a politically advantageous position when a new government takes over.

    The Syrian uprising alters the balance of power between the Kurds and the Turkish government. While it’s too soon to tell how Syria’s Kurdish population would ultimately benefit if the Assad regime falls, such momentum would be difficult to rein in.

    Posted in International [slideshow_deploy]

    One Response to Syrian Crisis Emboldens Kurds, Is Problematic for Turkey

    1. melvin polatnick says:

      Penalties for disobeying the will of Muhammad range from whipping to stoning, his closest followers must be cuffed. The Cult of Kali was ended by the British in India; it prevented millions of infidels from being strangled. The Cult of Islam must also be ended before countless outsiders die in agony. Progressive minded Muslims should be allowed to follow their private wishes and desires without fear of being molested. Dangerous cults must be disbanded without delay.

    Comments are subject to approval and moderation. We remind everyone that The Heritage Foundation promotes a civil society where ideas and debate flourish. Please be respectful of each other and the subjects of any criticism. While we may not always agree on policy, we should all agree that being appropriately informed is everyone's intention visiting this site. Profanity, lewdness, personal attacks, and other forms of incivility will not be tolerated. Please keep your thoughts brief and avoid ALL CAPS. While we respect your first amendment rights, we are obligated to our readers to maintain these standards. Thanks for joining the conversation.

    Big Government Is NOT the Answer

    Your tax dollars are being spent on programs that we really don't need.

    I Agree I Disagree ×

    Get Heritage In Your Inbox — FREE!

    Heritage Foundation e-mails keep you updated on the ongoing policy battles in Washington and around the country.

    ×