Mar 26 2018

Turkey risks nurturing radical Islam in north Syria - columnist

Turkey's activities in parts of northern Syria under its control may result in a backlash of Islamic radicalism, warned columnist Aslı Aydıntaşbaş on Sunday. 

Aydıntaşbaş finds Ankara's strategy to create an Islamists buffer zone controlled by jihadists groups on its border just to prevent Kurdish forces taking control of the area unreasonable and mind numbing.

Turkey controls areas of northern Syria near the Turkish border, including the towns of Jerablus and al-Bab, which were captured by the Turkish military from the Islamic State (ISIS) during a 2016-17 military operation, Eurphrates Shield.

Aydıntaşbaş's warning that radical Islamism could take root in these areas was spurred by news footage shot in al-Bab in Syria and Jerablus, showing the infrastructure including schools brought to the area since Turkey established a local council to administer the region took control and resettled 140 thousand Syrian refugees in the area.

The footage shows teachers and doctors dressed in outfits similar to the burqa, according to Aydıntaşbaş, which she described as a sign of a radical Islamism. Turkey banned the teachers and doctors in the region from covering their faces, but according to Aydıntaşbaş, the local council established by Turkey has implemented the opposite policy in Syria.

“Some guys dressed like the Islamic State held protests against Turkey. Ankara stepped back. As a result we opened the way for a Taliban regime financed by our taxes and claims to be ruled according to Sharia law,” she wrote.

The willingness to accede to demands from Islamist groups is motivated by Turkey's policy of creating a "buffer zone" between Turkey and armed Kurdish forces, including the People's Protection Units (YPG) that Ankara is fighting in the region sees as a primary threat, according to Aydıntaşbaş.

In the Syrian context, a move to ban the niqab, the clothing worn by Syrian women which Aydıntaşbaş refers to as "similar to the burqa" worn around Afghanistan, would recall the 2010 law by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad banning the garment from schools.

This and similar items of clothing are among the most highly politicised in the world, banned in parts of Europe and imposed on women in certain areas, including the vast areas in Syria and Iraq controlled by the Islamic State before the group was beaten back in 2017.