For weeks, idle Turkish tanks have been watching from the hills in southeastern Turkey as Islamic State forces pound the Syrian Kurdish town of Kobane, just a few hundred meters across the border. That lassitude has prompted many Westerners to voice doubts about Turkey’s commitment to eradicating the Islamic State.
Turkish government officials and Kurdish militants are divided when it comes to Syria, with Ankara strongly supporting the prospect of American military strikes, and most Kurds opposing them. This difference could place great strain on the Kurdish peace process in Turkey, in the event the United States takes action in Syria.
The March 21 ceasefire in the battle between the Kurdistan Workers’ Party and the Turkish state offers Turkey not only the hope of peace after decades of bloodshed, but poses profound implications for the region at large.
For many in Turkey, the name “Baglar,” a slum district in the southeastern city of Diyarbakir, a center of the Turkish state’s decades-long conflict with Kurdish rebels, conjures up images of masked youngsters clashing with police, throwing stones or Molotov cocktails. But for 37-year-old local schoolteacher Gokhan Yildirim, the name means just one thing – basketball.
The chances of a war erupting between Turkey and Syria appear to be rising. But the heated rhetoric of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s government does not seem to be matched by public enthusiasm for conflict.
In a display of muscle-flexing, Turkish tanks this week carried out military exercises on the Syrian border, just a few kilometers away from towns that Syrian Kurds had seized from Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's forces.
Social media has been a boon for democratization forces around the world, most notably in the Middle East and North Africa. But a recent tragedy in Turkey helps highlights the fact that social media also has a potentially dark side for democratization efforts.