Turkish Nationals Fighting On All Fronts in Syria

With young fighters going to fight in Syria, it is important to note that Turkish nationals have taken up arms on all sides of the conflict raging in its neighbor to the south.

al-monitor A protester holds a poster of the late al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden during a protest in Istanbul, Dec. 2, 2011. The words on the poster read: "Martyr, your path is our path."  Photo by REUTERS/Osman Orsal.

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turkish pipeline, turkish foreign policy, syrian conflict, jihadists in syria, jabhat al-nusra, islamic state of iraq and al-sham, internationalization of syrian conflict

Oct 8, 2013

A few months ago when we said that some young Turkish men were heading to Syria to take up Jihadm, many expressed their doubts.

This turned not to be just a theory, but reality. We all know that, especially for the past year, young Turkish Islamists have been going to Syria. Those who follow Syrian events knew all along about the coffins arriving in Turkey with bodies of those who had gone to Syria to fight.

Thanks to interviews of the daily Radikal’s Idris Emen with families in Adiyaman whose sons had gone to Syria, the public is finally more aware of the seriousness of the issue.

These young men who cross the border one way or another join not only al-Qaeda-linked Jabhat al-Nusra and The Islamic State of Iraq and Sham (ISIS) but also other Islamist factions within the Free Syrian Army (FSA).

Not surprising

They may not be big in numbers but they are part of the bigger picture. In the past, there were Turkish nationals who had gone to fight in Bosnia, Chechnya, and Afghanistan. Many are not alive now. It is disturbing, but I am not surprised that the Syrian crisis next door has created a similar attraction for our radical Islamist youth.

If you set aside the question of how they cross the border so easily, it is not fair only to blame Ankara. Yes, there are people from Turkey going to join jihad in Syria but there are also many who come from the United States and Europe.

They come from the West

About 2,000 EU and US nationals are currently believed to be in the ranks of al-Qaeda and its derivative jihadist movements in Syria. We are talking about 2,000 people with German, French and British passports. They have joined the armed struggle against President Bashar al-Assad by crossing into Syria over the borders of Turkey, Jordan or Iraq. Of them, 60 are believed to be US citizens or Muslims with US green cards. The names of 10 of them are known by security services. A few of them are women. One was killed in the Qusair battle.

Besides the United States and European Union, there are nationals of Iraq, Jordan, Tunisia, Yemen and Libya. I personally saw Bosnians with my own eyes and heard from opposition fighters how skilled the Chechnyan and Libyan bomb makers were.

The Muslim world is going through the worst sectarian war of its history. The Syrian war has truly bifurcated the Muslim word between Sunni and Shiite camps. In addition to the Sunnis, you have Hezbollah and Iranian Revolutionary Guards directly involved in the war on the Shiite side.

Other side included

Turkey is a part of this geography. That is why when we say the instability in Syria is a top security risk for Turkey, we are not only referring to bullets ricocheting over the border or refugees we receive, but also about the fault lines activated inside Turkey.

We musts accept the hard reality that our citizens from Adana, Istanbul, Adiyaman are going over to the join the opposition but some of them are joining Assad’s militia shabiha and the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD)'s military arm, the People’s Protection Units (YPG).

Fighting on three fronts

The shabiha fighting to defend the Assad regime is at least as notorious as al-Qaeda when it comes to violations of human rights. Although the YPG is made up of mainly Syrian Kurds, we are told that Turkish national Kurds transferred from their Kandil base are also playing a key role.

In short, citizens of the Republic of Turkey are not fighting only for al-Qaeda but on three fronts of the Syrian war.

This is why the prolongation of the Syria war is wearing us out by activating all our ethnic and sectarian fault lines. We can only hope that someone will wake up and start working on preventing this Syrian storm from turning our homes upside down.

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