Turks grow disillusioned with military campaign in Syria

Some Turkish people have grown disillusioned with Turkey’s military campaign in Syria, reported CBC News on Thursday

“I don’t think it’s going well. Every day, we are watching or reading on the news that we are losing a soldier,” Rojin Yılmaz, 18, told CBC.

Nearly 60 Turkish soldiers have been killed in fighting in Syria since January. These losses are a psychological blow, especially for a nation whose identity is closely linked to the military through its founding father Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, said CBC.

Over the past three months Turkey has deployed military force to try to halt the Syrian army's advance on the last rebel enclave of Idlib, northwest Syria. 

A new counter-offensive - Operation Spring Shield - was launched by Turkey on March 1 after at least 36 Turkish soldiers were killed in an air strike at the end of February that has been attributed to Russian planes backing Syrian forces.

In Istanbul, a large billboard carried the name Operation Spring Shield alongside the message: "Who would not sacrifice their life for this paradise of a country?" 

“That’s how [the operation is] being marketed,” political analyst Soli Özel told CBC. “I certainly wouldn't buy that.”

The Syrian offensive has displaced an estimated 1 million people from their homes in Idlib since December. Turkey is already hosting nearly 4 million Syrian refugees and fears it will be forced to take in even more. Hussein Bildek, a 22-year-old student, said that was why Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan had to send more troops into Syria. 

“Because we have 4 million refugees from Syria and you see the situation here. We have a really bad economy right now, and have to fix it somehow,” he told CBC.

The fighting in Idlib has also threatened to bring Turkey into direct military confrontation with Russia.

Turkey suspended social media for 16 hours after the air strike in late February on its soldiers in a move that critics say was aimed at stifling domestic debate over Turkey's interventions in Syria.

Özel said there had been a drop in support for Turkey's military presence in Idlib due to the losses of soldiers and other costs, and that it was uncommon to see media coverage of families mourning the loss of Turkish soldiers killed on duty.