The Syrian Turkish relations
Three years were enough to prove to anyone – specially the Syrians – that what happened in the other Arab-Spring countries (Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, and Yemen) was not going to happen in Syria in a short time, and even though the rebels in Tunisia won after 9 days, the rebels in Syria would wait three years, not knowing how much more they could last.
By the end of 30 November 2013, the SYRIAN REVOLUTION STATISTICS documented 98.770 killings in Syria since 15 March 2011, including :
- 8,988 children
- 8,183 women
- 3,486 died under torture
- 1,710 Palestinian
- The approximate number of detainees: 249,872
- The approximate number of forced disappearance: 91,780
- The approximate number of the wounded: 152,620
- The refugees: 3,165,240
- The displaced: 7,000,000
Which also means:
- Every 4 minutes , the Syrian regime arrests a citizen.
- Every 10 minutes , the Syrian regime wounds a citizen.
- Every 15 minutes, the Syrian regime kills a citizen.
- Every day , the Syrian regime kill 8 children.
- Every day the Syrian regime kills 4 citizens under torture.
- Every day the Syrian regime forces 3,194 citizens to flee the country and seek refuge.
- Every day the Syrian regime displaces 7,063 citizens from their homes.
What happened in Syria?
Following the Arab spring, the Syrian revolution started at 15 March 2011. It started in Daraa, a city in south Syria, when some kids write protesting slogans which were heard in the revolutions in Egypt and Tunisia , the Syrian regime arrested these children and tortured them brutally. When their parents went asking about their children, the regime had one answer "forget that you have children".
The revolution in Syria started because of this with demonstrations, strikes, and protests. Today, of course, the situation is so different.
Most of the population of 23 million that once existed in Syria (before the revolution) has been killed, arrested, displaced, made refugees or are missing.
The following graphs are from the SYRIAN CENTER FOR STATISTICS AND RESEARCH
The Syrian case has become a major political issue today because of the direct or indirect involvement of other states. The Syrian issue has reached the United Nation Security Council three times so far, but any meaningful decision about the Syrian case was blocked by the Russian –Chinese veto. The Syrian conflict does not seem to be coming to an end soon which affects the whole region by turmoil and tension, especially Turkey, the country that has had an important role in Syria since the Ottoman era.
This article will only focus on the Turkish-Syrian relations in light of on the current situation in Syria.
Turks were brought to Damascus, the capital of Umayyad State, as captives after the wars they fought with Gokturks brought the first Turkish presence into existence in Syrian region. The Turk were found in the Abbasid and Umayyad army’s because of their military capabilities and they settled the area of Iran and Iraq. Throughout the eighth century, this district came under the administration of many Turkish states. During the Ottoman era, Syria was divided into provinces, The Ottomans struggled to control this region because of its geographic, religious, political, cultural structures.
With the Regression of the Ottomans , European states stared to Syria lands. Charles Louis Napoleon Bonaparte occupied Syria in 1789 for the first time. Certainly, during that period, Arab nationalism played a big role over the disorder in that district. The ideas of Enlightenment supported the nationalism movement. After 1850s, the influence of the Christian Enlightenment was visible. During the First World War, the French and British invaded Syria and Syria ended up with the French as a result of secret deals. In the wake of the First World War, the Ottomans were annihilated. The new Turkish government was the follow up of the Ottomans. With the signing the Treaty of Ankara in 1921, France legitimized Turkey. At that time "Liwa'a Iskandarun" was part of Syria , which means that it was also occupied by France.
In 1936, Ataturk transformed the name of "Liwa'a Iskandarun" to ‘Hatay’. Between 1920 and 1936, the French dominance gave rise to tension and finally people revolted. France could not stand the pressure and recognized the independence of Syria. Even though France wanted to strengthen its own dominance, it could not prevent annexing Hatay to Turkish soils. France withdrew from Syrian territories fully in 1946.In 1970s, a water problem emerged between Turkey and Syria. According to the 1994 World Statistics, the annual per capita content in Turkey is 3,000 cubic meter and 3,500 cubic meters in Syria. With the emergence of the Southeastern Anatolia Project (GAP) , Syria worried that their share of the water will decrease and at the same time Turkey constructed the Keban threshold. These events induced a political and military crisis between them. Syria gave support to PKK organizing inside its own country. They even provided material and logistic support and kept Abdullah Öcalan in Syria. This only make the relations get worse.
With the Ak Party coming to power in 2002, the relations between Syria and Turkey reached a peak. Ahmet Davutoğlu says that AKP (Justice and Development Party) has brought a new approach to Turkey’s vision of the Middle East, especially because of its closeness to the Islamic world and embracing political Islam .
Turkey started economic and cultural cooperation campaigns in the region in order to solve security problems.
Turkey's internal security and stability would be maintained by undertaking positive and active roles.
On the other hand, ignoring the Middle East problems, will not produce a solution for security problems. Syria is seen as the gate to the Middle East. Another reason for the development of relations between the two countries was that President Ahmet Necdet Sezer participated in Hafiz Al-Assad’s funeral ceremony. With Bashar Al-Assad coming to power in 2000, the relations improved significantly. During the visits of Bashar Al-Assad, providing visas to Turkish businessman, agreements, property consultations led to improving the relations.
Demonstrations which started in Syria in March 2011 were followed by Turkish attention . Davutoğlu sent a committee in order to express concern about civilian causalities and regime mistakes. Nevertheless, Davutoğlu did not find any satisfactory explanations or solutions from Bashar Al – Assad.
On January 26, Davutoglu’s statement summarized the situation and called on Bashar al-Assad to put an end to violence, and called on him to respond to the revolution otherwise he would end up like Gaddafi.
However, some border problems occurred between Turkey and Syria . On 22 June 2012, a Turkish f-4 war aircraft was shot down by Syrian government forces for alleged frontier infringement. Another border problem was the shelling crisis. Two shells were dropped across the Turkish– Syrian frontiers in Akçakale. According to official figures, 5 people died and more than 15 people were injured as a result of this event.
The relations suffered more tension until they were completely severed days later.
The conflict in Syria had other repercussions for Turkey: the refugees.
The Syrian Refugees in Turkey
A statistic that took place in 30 November 2013 by the Syrian Revolution Statistics showed that the Syrian refugees number reached 3,165,240 who fled Syria because of the daily shelling, killing, and destruction.
Accurate statistics about the destruction in Syria are hard to calculate, however, the Syrian Network for Human Rights was able to count after 18 months about 2.365 million destroyed buildings , and we can expect that the figure has least doubled since another 18 months passed with the Assad forces launching even more brutal attacks on Syrian areas.
Syrians took refuge mainly in Turkey, Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan, and Iraq. Of course, Syrian refugees fled to other countries all over the world, but these five countries had the biggest numbers of them, as the map shows:
This map was published within the article "Syria refugees crisis- a day in a life" on 25 July 2013 so the numbers probably increased, but it gives a clear idea about the tragedy. One seventh of the population has been made refugees in foreign countries.
The refugees in Turkey live in the best conditions compared to the others. In Turkish camps, food, water and blankets are provided. There are some schools for the children there. With the winter coming (the last winter was a tragedy for the refugees) Turkey provided heaters for the refugees.
Still, there are more problems with more refugees arriving everyday to the Turkish areas. Many of these problem are related to children.
According to the UN, during 3 years of the Syrian conflict, 21 thousand Syrian babies were born in the refugee camps, which means that every hour, a baby is born in the Syrian refugee camps. An entire generation of Syrians – if it keeps on like this – will be raised in bad and poor conditions.
Although Turkey has given camps for the refugees, these camps have limits.
Some refugees in other countries such as Jordan or Egypt, faced harder conditions of living (in Egypt after the coup, in Jordan because of the miserable Disreputable camps, and in Arab countries in general, Syrian refugees are not so welcomed). And because of that many of them left the Arab countries and came to Turkey, along with the daily arrival of the refuges from Syria, a mass of population in the camps had exist.
This automatically caused other problems such as health problems: providing enough water and sanitation and electricity, as well as the possibility of an outbreak of epidemic diseases.
Above all , the economic situation is not encouraging Turkey to accept more refugees , it spent about $2 billion so far , and this number is likely to increase dramatically.
"The number of Syrian refugees in Turkey has exceeded 600,000 and more than 400,000 of them are living outside refugee camps, the Turkish disaster management agency said on Monday," said a Reuters report.
"Turkey has said it will maintain its "open door" policy to those fleeing the Syrian civil war, now in its third year, although it has closed border crossings from time to time following clashes near the frontier.
About 200,000 Syrians were living in 21 refugee camps, mainly near border cities, Aydogdu said, while the rest chose to live in rented accommodation outside the camps.
Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan said in August Turkey has already spent around $2 billion sheltering the refugees. The United Nations expects another 2 million Syrians to become refugees in 2014 and 2.25 million more to be displaced within the country".
Is this policy going to last for long despite its impact on the Turkish economy? And are the refugees going to change their feelings toward the shelters from "Bivouac" to "home"? If so, what kind of future awaits a generation of kids who lived through these experiences? This depends on what steps - if any - the international community would take regarding the refugees issue.
Yet, the truth is that the refugees are only one part of the problem. Another part is the Syrian working in Turkey.
Syrian Labor in Turkey
According to AFAD, The number of Syrian refugees in Turkey exceeded 600 thousand, including more than 400 thousand living outside the camps set up in the border cities of Turkey.
"Ready for any kind of jobs", this is a common phrase among the Syrians in Turkey, students, workers, doctors, teachers, and others. Having left their houses and sometimes their families, they hope to find jobs here which can make their families survive.
Most of them find out later, that working conditions here are not easy, actually, not even normal, most of the Syrian labor have to work for long hours ( 8– 12 hours a day) receiving lower wages than Turkish labor , and no insurances at all .as a Turkish textile factory owner praised the Syrian labor , saying: "they except to work in difficult conditions and for "reasonable" wages, not like Turks".
That is why Turkish business owners prefer employing Syrians, but is it only about wages?
This photo was taken by BBC, documenting Syrian refugees who sleep in public gardens and mosques, because they have no other choice. The Turkish Municipalities ignore the Syrians’ infractions like sleeping in public gardens or working infractions, as long as there are no criminal infractions. Nevertheless, many Syrian workers are in daily fear of the Turkish police because many of them are in Turkey illegally. If caught by the Turkish police, they will be returned to refugee camps. Therefore, many Syrians became victims of Turkish exploitation.
There are many stories about Syrians who accepted working in bad conditions with low wages, and were then deceived. Some of them do not receive their payment while others receive less than what they have been promised to. Knowing that Syrian workers can not object to the police, Turkish employers do not fear any consequences of their fraudulence. As for the Syrian workers, they find themselves forced to accept the situation, and some of them return back to Syria, preferring bombing, shelling and even worse: hunger.
According to TRT, the Syrian labor in Turkey reached 40,000 workers, but also according to Al-Jazeera only 5% of the Syrians in Turkey find job opportunities, how does this affect the Turkish economy?
Mr. Asim Gozl Biya, the mayor of Gaziantep, told a Turkish newspaper: "Syrians brought financial liquidity to Gaziantep and that activated the state's economy."
Since the Syrian labor was now preferred by Turkish employers, Turkish unemployment became a new problem, the Turkish labor started to accuse the Syrian labor of stealing their jobs.
Some Syrians could avoid such a problem, together they opened independent businesses, barber shops, traditional sweets shops, and small restaurants.
Still, it is not easy to open your own business in Turkey, first because you are foreign, and second because Turkey – compared to Syria – has a very high standard of living, and the Syrian currency deterioration is only making things harder for Syrians in Turkey.
Is it going to remain like this? This issue was discussed, sometimes by the Turkish elite, however, it looks like quick steps should be taken, to redress the situation of the Syrian labor in Turkey.
Syrian Schools in Turkey
With the number of Syrians in Turkey growing greater day after day trying to fulfill their basic needs to survive, they face many problems including health problems, working problems, and most importantly, educational problems.
According to "yeni şafak" website, the number of Syrian schools in Turkey has reached 55 schools.
However, relative to the total number of Syrians in Turkey, that is not enough. According to Reuters, Mustafa Aydogdu, spokesman for the Disaster and Emergency Management Directorate (AFAD) said: "We conducted a study before the Eid (al-Adha) holidays and the numbers have increased above 600,000."
Syrian schools – although having a lot in common – vary in many ways. However, the question is: are Syrian schools solving the problem or making it more complicated?
According to UNICEF there are more than 2,000 destroyed schools in Syria, and 800 other schools are inhabited by internally displaced people. The refugees outside Syria, however, are going through harder and more serious situations.
Some of the refugees fled Syria on foot, leaving everything behind to an unknown future, which usually has a negative impact on the children.
Omar Khurshid (a teacher in Al-awael school, one of the Syrian schools in Turkey) said in his interview with CCTV: "Some of the students stopped going to schools for more than two years".
He added, then: "They are obsessed with their past experiences; they are terrified when planes fly over the school".
Obviously even though Syrian schools have Syrian staff, going to a school in Turkey is just not the same, but students cannot risk wasting more years without education.
Nusiba Hilal, a Supervisor in Al-aqsa School in Istanbul told us about the problems that are most common in all the Syrian schools in Istanbul : "Commuting is a big problem, the Turkish bus companies ask usually for high payments in the contracts with us, many families can barely stand such prices. The buses take between 1,30-2,30 hours to reach the school, students (especially the kids) are not used to such long roads". She said: "I have noticed in many schools, that it is causing health problems for some students. Some of them get dizzy, some of them puke, and a few days ago a student got dizzy and then fainted".
However, as we met teachers in different schools, we noticed that health problems are not a major issue. The long conflict in Syria which has not only destroyed large areas in the country, but also childhood itself in Syria, had its negative impacts on the students.
"We noticed that the children are expressing themselves violently, and in many cases by fits of crying, even their paintings usually include weapons and tears. Some students were excellent in studying, then their studying level became lower. About 5% of the student have psychological problems".
The following painting is from a student in a Syrian school in Istanbul:
In this painting, the boy is showing himself killing the teachers who made him angry (math, Arabic, science, and physics teachers)!
Still, being a student in a Syrian school is much easier than being an alien in a Turkish school, where people would speak a different language, study different levels, and above all, pay more (because of the high standard of living, 1 TL = 67,99 Syrian lira in 24\12\2013 ).
Obviously, the Syrian schools were a solution for Syrian students to complete their education, and for the Syrian teachers who were searching for jobs. But in the end, building a school – a foreign school – wouldn’t be easy.
In Turkey, however, it was possible for 55 Syrian schools to open their doors for the students, the Turkish government supported the Syrian schools, on different levels.
"Qadimon" is an example of a Syrian school in Istanbul which had the school's building, books , notebooks, and other requirements in the school given to them by the Municipalities. In other schools, only students requirement were given. In some schools nothing was given.
But with the numbers of Syrian students increasing dramatically, is it going to stay like this? Are new Syrian schools going to open? Mrs. Hilal says: "I encourage opening new schools for Syrians, but I also encourage having some rules to regulate and specify a criteria for schools, not to have chaos".
SAVE THE CHILDREN said that 2.5 million Syrian children are threatened by ignorance because of the conditions, according to the organization 3,900 Syrian
schools have been destroyed or have stopped working (January 2013).
In its report, it also described the conditions of the refugees children as the following:
"Shocking testimony collected from refugees in SAVE THE CHILDREN projects has revealed that children have been the targets of brutal attacks, seen the deaths of parents, siblings and other children, and have witnessed and experienced tortured.”
SAVE THE CHILDREN International’s Chief Executive, Jasmine Whitbread, said: “Horrific acts of violence are being committed against children in Syria. These children need specialist care now to help them recover from their shocking experiences. Their testimonies should also be documented so that those who have perpetrated these violent acts against children are held accountable.”
So the question is what kind of future awaits these children? And could the international community – which is not doing enough to stop Assad the tyrant – ever impose enough punishment on the criminal who destroyed the childhood of these children and who used every means to crush the revolution against him even if he had to use chemical weapons?
Ghouta Chemical Attack
On 21 August 2012, the world witnessed a humanitarian disaster in Ghouta, Syria. Only six kilometers away from the Syrian capital, a chemical attack was reported.
Although the declared death toll varied from different agency to agency, the truth is thousands of people lost their lives on that day.
How many victims?
Symptoms suffered by victims in Ghouta clearly indicated use of chemical weapons. Medicins Sans Frontieres stated that at least 3600 patients who displayed ‘’neurotoxic symptoms’’ were treated in hospitals supported by MSF and 302 of these died. The Violations Documentation Centre, an activist-run site cited by UN, listed at least 588 people dead including 135 women and 108 children. A preliminary US government assessment estimated the figure at 1429 fatalities. Finally, based on George Sabra’s speech, it was declared that at least 1300 people had been killed.
Statements and Call on UN
The government and the opposition exchanged accusations of responsibility for the attack. Syrian Coalition leader Ahmed al-Jarba condemned the Syrian army for being responsible for this ‘massacre’. The accusations were totally denied by Syrian Foreign Ministry. Also, the Syrian government and military described the allegations made by Western powers as ‘’false and completely baseless’’ and challenged them to present incontrovertible evidence. Bashar Assad accused rebel groups of staging the attack as a maneuver to turn around the conflict.
In the meanwhile, statements also came from outside Syria. The Russian Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov, said that the West had no proof that President Assad’s forces had used chemical weapons. US Secretary of State, John Kerry, condemned what he said was the ‘’undeniable’’ use of chemical weapons by the Syrian government. The Turkish prime minister Erdoğan called this incident Assad’s ‘last flutter’ and questioned the validity of UN Security Council’s by these words: ‘Wasn’t peace the purpose of your establishment? Nowadays you are not the guarantee of peace.’’ Britain called on Damascus to give UN inspectors access to the site.
The opposition Syrian National Coalition called for an urgent UN Security Council meeting on the subject. The Arab League called on UN chemical weapons inspectors to immediately visit the site of the incident.
The massacre was also condemned by Ban-ki Moon , the secretary General ,and he declared that what happened is a war crime.
The UN has been searching for evidence of the use of chemical weapons in 7 cases in Syria. According to the CRS Report for Congress of 13 September 2013, the environmental, chemical and medical samples provide clear and convincing evidence that surface-to-surface rockets containing the nerve agent, Sarin, were used in Ein Tarma, Muadhamiya and Zamalka areas of Ghouta. Also in Han El-Assal, Saraqueb and Ashrafiah the use of chemical weapons has been proven and victims include both civilians and soldiers.
Symptoms of patients who were affected by the attack:
In the Ghouta attack, the surface-to-surface rockets which are capable of carrying chemical heads containing Sarin gas were used. Sarin is an extremely dangerous nerve agent and can enter the body through the lungs or by skin contact. Over 50 interviews with survivors and health care workers provided ample corroboration and blood and urine samples taken from 36 people clearly showed positive signs for Sarin and its signatures.
330mm caliber and artillery rockets were observed and measured. It was estimated that the warheads on the 330mm rockets would have the capacity to carry between 50 and 62 liters of chemical agent.
In their report, they said the light gray painted ordnance they found in the area was about 140mm wide and had an engine with 10 jet nozzles.
However, UN did not conduct an investigation about who was responsible for the attack.
OPCW and Syria
The use of chemical and biological weapons is prohibited in war according to the Protocol for the Prohibition of the Use in War of Asphyxiating, Poisonous or Other Gases, and of Bacteriological Methods of Warfare, known as Geneva Protocol of 1925. However, this protocol does not mention the production, transfer or stockpiling of chemical agents. So, its scope was extended by Convention On The Prohibition Of The Development Production Stockpiling and the Use Of Chemical Weapons and On Their Destruction (1993). According to Convention, each state party never undertakes ‘’(a) to develop, produce, otherwise acquire, stockpile or retain chemical weapons, or transfer, directly or indirectly, chemical weapons to anyone; (b) to use chemical weapons; (c) to engage in any military preparations to use chemical weapons; (d) to assist, encourage or induce, in any way, anyone to engage in any activity prohibited to a State Party under this Convention.’’ Secondly, it obliges states to destroy all chemical weapons and also weapons production facilities which are present under their jurisdiction or control or they own/possess. Finally, it is forbidden to use riot control agents as a method of warfare.
Here are the such ‘’toxic chemicals’’ possessed by Syria listed in Convention:
Sarin: O-Isopropyl methylphosphonofluoridate
VX: O-Ethyl S-2-diisopropylaminoethyl methyl phosphonothiolate
Red Line and Operation
One year before the 21 August attack, on 20 August 2012, President Obama said that the use of chemical weapons was a ‘red line’.
On 4 September 2013, President Barack Obama said that not just the US but the world had set a red line against chemical weapons use which he now wanted to apply to Syria, while a Senate committee approved a resolution authorizing the U.S. military attack that he was planning
As Erdogan said that UNSC was not a guarantee for global peace, two countries Russia and China which are two of five countries having the veto power rejected the sanctions on Syria. This blocked any action by UN. The USA decided to undertake its ‘red line responsibility’ by a ’limited and proportional intervention’’ which is an air strike operation to prevent the use of chemical weapons. President Obama affirmed that American boots will not be put in Syria.
France declared ‘being ready’. However Britain, by 272 to 285 votes in Parliament could not take part with the USA in the case of intervention.
While the US was prepared to go to the Senate vote which would have been held on September 9th, Russia presented a proposal to put Syrian chemical weapons under international control to be destroyed in order to avoid a possible U.S. military strike. Assad regime, USA, and OPCW welcomed the proposal. "We held a very fruitful round of talks with Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov yesterday (8 September), and he proposed an initiative relating to chemical weapons. And in the evening we agreed to the Russian initiative," the Foreign Minister, Walid al-Moualem, said. From the USA’s side, President Barack Obama said that the framework "represents an important concrete step toward the goal of moving Syria's chemical weapons under international control so that they may ultimately be destroyed."
Plan for Destruction
According to the agreed framework ‘’The United States and the Russian Federation commit to work together towards prompt adoption of a UN Security Council resolution that reinforces the decision of the OPCW Executive Council. This resolution will also contain steps to ensure its verification and effective implementation and will request that the UN Secretary-General, in consultation with the OPCW, submit recommendations to the UN Security Council on an expedited basis regarding the UN’s role in eliminating the Syrian chemical weapons program.’’
The Director-General of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), Ambassador Ahmet Üzümcü, welcomed the agreement on chemical weapons in Syria that was announced following talks held in Geneva between the Foreign Minister of Russia, Sergey V. Lavrov, and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.
So, Syria was expected to submit, an extensive Accessory which includes names, types, and quantities of agents, types of munitions, place and form of storage, production, and research and development facilities.
According to the timeline, during the first half of 2014 not only the chemical weapons possessed by Syria but also stocks of chemical weapons agents, their precursors, specialized CW equipment, and CW munitions shall be completely destroyed under the OCPW supervision.
On 14 October 2013, the Syrian Arab Republic became the 190th state party to the Chemical Weapons Convention.
According to CWC, each state party shall destroy all chemical weapons production facilities and related facilities and equipment. In addition, destruction shall begin no later than one year after this Convention enters into force for it.
Syria handed over a list of what it said was its chemical arms stockpile on 20 September.
All chemical weapons which were not filled yet were destroyed in Homs as OPCW declared.
OPCW's director-general Ahmet Üzümcü said that the US government will contribute ``a destruction technology, full operational support and financing to neutralize'' the weapons, most likely on a ship in the Mediterranean Sea. Croatia did not accept giving access to its port. A proposal by the USA for Albania to volunteer to destroy these chemical weapons in Albania’s territory led to protests and was rejected.
The operation would destroy 500 tons of Syria's most dangerous chemical weapons, including nerve agents, which are considered too dangerous to import into a country or process commercially.
As of 31 December, The Syrian government was warned by Ahmet Üzümcü to make more effort on this subject.
US Cape Ray warship will be used in the process of destruction. With the assistance of the Syrian army, chemical weapons will be loaded from Lattakia port in Norway and Denmark cargo vessels .These vessels are going to carry chemical weapons to Italy. In Italy, the chemical weapons will be loaded to Cape Ray and the destruction process will occur, This is the plan.
We are not sure when exactly this process would come true. However, as we hope, destruction might completely occur , but still , both Syrians and humanity will never forget this massacre.
Special thanks to:
|Syrian center for statistics and research
The Syrian revolution statistics
Al-aqsa school in Istanbul
|Mr. Amr Salah Bittar
Ms. Fatma Eban ARIKAN
Mrs. Nusiba Hilal