The Syrian question in Türkiye has insistently been reduced by certain groups to “migrant problems.” I would like to avoid being ambiguous about those involved in this discourse by referring to them as “certain groups.” It’s not difficult to determine who these groups are. Starting from Fetullah Terrorist Organization (FETÖ) members, it is very clear that this includes almost all groups that have been in cooperation with them since 2013. The majority of these reduced the Syrian debacle, including the people living in Türkiye as asylum seekers, to migrant troubles. Why are these groups, though they know that the migrant issue is a reflection of much bigger problems, taking a reductive position on this matter? Despite this, which factors give rise to the migrant problem?
Türkiye has been considering the refugee issue as a serious problem since migration from Syria first started. However, Türkiye’s decisions alone were insufficient to solve the huge problem that arose. In fact, it was understood over time that decisions taken alone do not and cannot reflect an embracive view. The Syrian issue cannot be understood in every aspect, unless the matter is discussed alongside the process of dependent organizations—such as FETÖ’s parting of ways with Türkiye. Ideas that are formed around the concepts of indigenousness and nationalism are also closely linked to the Syria issue.
As can be remembered, the most damaging interventions against Türkiye started in 2013 with the Gezi Park events, and were followed by the December intervention. In early 2014, FETÖ terrorists launched an op against National Intelligence Organization (MİT) trucks, subjecting Türkiye to global pressure. Türkiye could no longer actually produce a solution in Syria, including on the migrant issue. The idea to develop a safe zone in northern Syria failed to materialize. During discussions where the U.S. and EU attempted to drive Türkiye into a great quagmire, the harshest interventions came from within. The political changes that took place in Turkish politics during this time were head spinning.
We have no idea who will speak up, or whether light will be shed on certain truths over time, but it is safe to say that the mystery is being revealed even without in-depth knowledge. Certain dependent organizations and power groups tried to push the Syria issue into a dead-end, making it impossible to solve, to force regional regulations. This is how the chain of operations that formed in accordance with foreign plans, which would impact the whole region, appeared. Türkiye’s distinct association of the events in north Syria and north Iraq after the 2016 coup is not in vain. When the Tomb of Suleiman Shah was moved, our region became open to foreign regulations. Türkiye was banished from the region—at least on paper.
We can associate the Syrian events with the smokescreen metaphor. There was a much deeper disintegration between religious groups that goes back a long time. This disintegration was not at the conflict level. The smokescreen thrived on this lack of conflict. FETÖ made unlimited gains in the Feb. 28 period. This period ended with the legitimization of this organization among conservative religious groups. The period between Feb. 28 and the Gezi Park events should be individually analyzed to further strengthen the smokescreen. Following this long period, it is quite interesting that the Gezi Park events caused a deep separation between conservative religious groups. The attempt almost completely eliminated the smokescreen. The fact that the U.S. and EU starting to make room in our region for a new regulation led to a deep separation among conservative religious groups is truly an interesting development.
Türkiye’s formation of a safe zone in north Syria will not only solve the migrant issue: Türkiye wants to form a safe zone in the north of Syria, and says that the solution to the migrant problem is dependent on this. Terrorist organizations such as FETÖ, and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK)-Democratic Union Party (PYD), as well as their extensions within, are opposing Türkiye’s plan. Hence, we can say that the safe zone Türkiye is working on building will resolve many other complex problems in the region.
Furthermore, the conservative opposition’s adoption of the anti-migrant discourse is not an ordinary development.