Ankara taking a page out of Baath party’s demographic warfare against Kurds - Haaretz

Turkey seeks to replicate the demographic warfare strategy of the Syria’s Baath party against Kurdish regions in the 1960s, by changing the democratic balance in northeast Syria to prevent those territories from becoming an autonomous Kurdish zone, columnist Zvi Bar'el wrote in Israeli newspaper Haaretz on Friday.

Turkey has repeatedly threatened to launch a military operation against territories in northeast Syria controlled by the predominantly-Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which forms the backbone of U.S.-led coalition forces fighting against the Islamic State in Syria.

Ankara sees the SDF as an extension of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has been fighting inside Turkey for more than three decades.

Turkey and the United States last month started efforts to establish a safe zone in northeast Syria, which Ankara says will also serve as a peace corridor for the safe return of 3.6 million Syrians living in Turkey. 

Resettling the Syrian refugees in northeast Syria is mainly a strategy for Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to lower the pressure of anti-Syrian sentiments in the country, which analysts maintain is one of for reasons for the upset Erdoğan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) faced in Turkey’s major provinces in the March 31 local elections. 

“But resettling the refugees in Syria also has another, unspoken goal that threatens the country’s Kurdish regions,” Bar’el said. The Kurdish leadership in northern Syria accuses Ankara of seeking to implement a similar strategy it previously used in the northwestern town of Afrin, which was seized from the Kurdish People Protection Units (YPG) last year. 

The SDF says the Turkish government changed the demographic balance of Afrin by settling Turkmen and Arab families in the villages nearby, while forcing Kurds to leave the town. It now says Ankara wants to dilute the Kurdish population on the east of River Euphrates with Syrian Arabs to prevent the establishment of autonomous Kurdish zones. 

“The demographic warfare strategy isn’t new; Syria’s Baath party used it in Kurdish regions in the 1960s. Now, Turkey apparently seeks to replicate this model along its border with Syria,” Bar’el said.