Erdoğan looking to alter Kurdish demographic with refugee resettlement plan - analyst

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s plan to resettle up to 3 million Syrian refugees in the “safe zone” of northeastern Syria is not a humanitarian solution, but an attempt to offload refugees from Turkey and radically alter the Kurdish demographic in the region, wrote Simon Waldman, an associate fellow at the Henry Jackson Society, for the UAE’s The National newspaper.

“Through making east of Euphrates a safe place, and depending on the depth of this safe zone, we can resettle 2-3 million displaced Syrians currently living in our country and Europe,” Erdoğan said earlier this month.

Turkey’s strongman has also demanded additional European finance to continue hosting Turkey’s 3.6 million Syrian refugees, or backing for his safe zone resettlement plan, threatening otherwise to “open the gates” for refugees to enter Europe.

Erdoğan’s plan does not focus on refugees, but rather moves that will both help Ankara dump the refugees and help Turkey’s battle against the U.S.-backed Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), which Turkey claims is the Syrian offshoot of the separatist Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), Waldman said.

The safe zone region is mostly controlled by YPG, which Ankara sees as an extension of the outlawed PKK, an armed group that has been at war in Turkey for over 30 years. 

Tampering with the ethnic demographic balance of Kurdish regions of Syria, the article said, recalls the dark days of Baathist rule, which during the 1960s and 1970s, “instigated a policy of resettling Arabs to Kurdish areas in the north, especially in zones close to the Turkish border east of the Euphrates.”

Turkey has also had its fair share of altering the demographic balance of its Kurdish regions by “Turkifying” the Kurdish-majority southeast of the country by sending Turks to settle in the region during the 1920s and 1930s, Waldman wrote.

This was followed by the destruction of thousands of Kurdish villages during the height of the war with the PKK in the 1990s, displacing tens of thousands of Kurds. 

Washington, as a partner in the construction of the “safe zone”, should draw a line by stating it will not be part of any policy of demographic tampering in the region, the article said.