In the last few months, Turkey has been showing alarming behaviour, both inside and outside its borders. These acts may have a negative impact, not only on its neighbours but also on US, its NATO allies and even Russia. Here is a listicle which explains the prevailing conditions in and around Turkey.
Turkey’s Internal Conditions:
- Turkey’s history can be divided into three main parts:
- Pre-Ataturk’s Reforms
- Turkey under Ataturk
- Turkey under Erdogan
- Turkey used to be the seat for the Ottoman Empire. After the World War I where they were defeated, the new Turkey was born.
- The Republic of Turkey was born in 1923 with Mustafa Kemal Atatürk (Atatürk means father of the Turks) as its First President.
- Under his regime, Turkey saw many changes which were aimed towards the overall development of Turkey as a country. Accordingly, the Constitution of Turkey was restructured, administration modernised and secularism brought in (albeit a little forcefully). One of the most notable changes brought about by Atatürk would be the equal status granted to both men and women. This was in direct contrast to the status of women in the Ottoman Empire – where they were not allowed any political status.
- Currently, Turkey is a parliamentary representative democracy according to the Constitution.
- Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, on the other hand is the current President of Turkey. From 2003 to 2014, Erdoğan served as the Prime Minister of Turkey and since 2014 has been serving as the President.
- Erdoğan’s rule is as different from what Atatürk pictured Turkey’s growth to be as possible.
- Their difference has been succinctly put forward by The New Yorker as follows:
Throughout his tenure as Prime Minister and now as President, Erdoğan has distanced himself from Atatürk. He views himself as the father of a new Turkish identity, one aligned more closely with its Ottoman past, its Islamic heritage. He has taken the country in a more religious direction, similar to a place it was in before the 1997 coup.
- He is trying to appeal to the population that resisted Atatürk’s reforms. While some of his reforms were seen as revolutionary in the economic sector, not all reforms can be termed to be good. Increasingly religiously motivated reforms are seen which are a threat to the constitutional rules. They even take away the equal rights granted to women.
- So the current situation in Turkey is that there are reforms taking place under Erdoğan’s rule which may not be the best practices in terms of human rights or even individual civil rights.
Turkey’ Impact Internationally:
- Turkey shares border with Syria (south-east), Iraq, Iran, Azerbaijan, Armenia and Georgia to the east. On the west it is surrounded by Bulgaria and the Aegean Sea. It is at a point where Europe meets Asia and thus can be said to be present in both continents.
- Turkey too entered into many western organisations, like OECD and even NATO.
- Because of its unique position, Turkey was considered a link between the east and the west. This is important because it could be an ally to both US and also the West Asian countries.
- Keeping this scenario in mind, it becomes necessary to understand the relationship Turkey has with its neighbours and other countries.
Turkey and Syria:
- Since Turkey shares borders with Syria, there is certain outpouring of problems into the Turkish border from Syria. Turkey spoke up against Bashar al-Assad for his severe crackdown upon the protesters in Arab Springs. It also provided refuge for the escaping Syrians.
- On 24th August 2016, Turkey launched an attack in Syria, targeting both ISIL (Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant) as well as the SDF (Syrian Democratic Forces). On 29th March 2017, Turkish Military termed this attack as successfully completed.
- While some supported the attack (like Germany, and US) others viewed it as an attack on the sovereignty of Syria. But Turkey rebutted this by saying that their attack was an act of self-defense and in line with the UNSC Resolution 2249 which calls upon member-states to act against ISIL.
To recap – Turkey with the support of US (its NATO ally) attacked Syria, or more particularly the ISIL and the SDF, which was termed to be successful.
America’s role in the Turkey-Syria Conflict:
- America is experimenting with democracy in Syria with the help of the Kurdish fighters. Kurdish fighters mostly comprise of the YPG (or the People’s Protection Units).
- America relied on the Kurdish fighters to fight against ISIL and push them out. So, it is safe to say that America has close ties with them.
- But it is also true that the YPG have close ties with PKK (Kurdistan Worker’s Party), a terrorist group in Syria, which has been involved with conflict with the Turkish State.
- This puts America in an awkward position; on one hand is its long time NATO ally Turkey, and on the other is the YPG, closely linked with PKK, which is its biggest supporter in the fight against ISIL. Needless to say, it has put US in an uncomfortable position.
- This is especially problematic considering that Turkey launched another attack on Syria in January 2018 in the Afrin District, predominantly controlled by the Kurds. This attack is known as Operation Olive Branch.
- Turkey’s attacks are becoming increasingly violent, going as far as injuring and killing civilians, as termed by the Human Rights Watch (HRW).
- America has been sending mixed reactions to both the Turkish State as well as the Kurdish group leading the attack against ISIS. This response from the US to protect both its interests might backfire and end up with neither party being its ally.
The internal struggle in Turkey, along with its fight with Syria could hamper its relations with the NATO allies and the western world. The link between the east and the west may be lost, and would also affect the government financially.