Syria: The Crisis and Its Implications

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Opposition supporters eventually began to take up arms, first to defend themselves and later to expel security forces from their local areas. Violence escalated and the country descended into civil war as rebel brigades were formed to battle government forces for control of cities, towns and the countryside.

Fighting reached the capital Damascus and second city of Aleppo in By June , the UN said 90, people had been killed in the conflict. By August , that figure had climbed to , , according to activists and the UN. The conflict is now more than just a battle between those for or against Mr Assad. It has acquired sectarian overtones, pitching the country's Sunni majority against the president's Shia Alawite sect, and drawn in regional and world powers.

The rise of the jihadist group Islamic State IS has added a further dimension. A UN commission of inquiry has evidence that all parties to the conflict have committed war crimes - including murder, torture, rape and enforced disappearances. They have also been accused of using civilian suffering - such as blocking access to food, water and health services through sieges - as a method of war.

The UN Security Council has demanded all parties end the indiscriminate use of weapons in populated areas, but civilians continue to die in their thousands. Many have been killed by barrel bombs dropped by government aircraft on gatherings in rebel-held areas - attacks which the UN says may constitute massacres.

Syria: The story of the conflict

IS has also been accused by the UN of waging a campaign of terror. It has inflicted severe punishments on those who transgress or refuse to accept its rules, including hundreds of public executions and amputations. Its fighters have also carried out mass killings of rival armed groups, members of the security forces and religious minorities, and beheaded hostages, including several Westerners.

We're just living on the edge of life. We're always nervous, we're always afraid. Hundreds of people were killed in August after rockets filled with the nerve agent sarin were fired at several suburbs of Damascus. Western powers said it could only have been carried out by Syria's government, but the government blamed rebel forces. Facing the prospect of US military intervention, President Assad agreed to the complete removal and destruction of Syria's chemical weapons arsenal.

However, the periods of high border porosity played a role in making it possible for groups with extremist religious agendas, particularly ISIS, to infiltrate Turkey, organize cells, recruit militants and perpetrate numerous violent attacks. Whether the state was using the border as a means of exclusion or inclusion along ethno-national lines became the central question during the siege of Kobane in the autumn of , once more highlighting the interconnectedness of the Kurdish issue within the context of the Syrian conflict, and the role Turkey's border politics played in the augmentation of this interconnectedness.

People's Democratic Party 69 called on the government to open a humanitarian corridor and to allow the passage of military reinforcements from other PYD-controlled territories in Syria and from the Kurdistan Autonomous Region in Iraq.

What is Syrian Crisis?

The government ruled out the option of allowing military transfer to the PYD and the YPG because of their links to the PKK, and instead of opening a humanitarian corridor admitted , Kurds fleeing Kobane. By the end of the unrest that lasted for a week, 46 people had died as a result of armed street clashes and the heavy-handed response by riot police.

After the unrest, at the end of October, Turkey allowed the passage of military reinforcements from the Kurdistan Autonomous Region in Iraq to Kobane. In the longer term, the Kobane protests became a turning-point on the path towards the accentuation of ethnic boundaries, the dramatic deterioration of the peace process, and the replacement of political dialogue by securitized and conflict-oriented approaches and actors.

This article has examined the impact of the violent transition process in Syria since on Turkey's border management modalities and the implications for Turkish domestic politics of the state's instrumentally changing border management patterns between and Particular attention has been paid to the interplay between contentious border politics and the politicization of identity boundaries.

The analysis has demonstrated that dynamics in Syria after encouraged Turkey to seek enhanced regional sway by attempting to influence the post-conflict power reconfiguration, as well as to safeguard its own territorial integrity and centralized nation-state structure against PKK-linked Kurdish nationalist mobilization.

Turkey's constant pursuit of these two objectives, along with its recalibration of strategies in the face of continuously changing power configurations in Syria, and the security threats emanating from the conflict, resulted in changing border management modalities. The specific ways in which the border functioned as a gateway for some and as a barrier for others, intertwined with the existing identity boundaries that demarcate society in a complex and overlapping fashion within and across state borders, became a highly contested issue.

As border management patterns were deeply embedded in regional and domestic politics, structured increasingly in ethno-sectarian terms, the state's specific patterns of border management and their outcomes were seen as a matter of discrimination or assimilation, particularly in the eyes of minorities.


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The major implication for domestic politics has been an overall hardening of sectarian, and particularly ethnic, boundaries. The case of Turkey demonstrates that border politics have the potential to augment already high levels of interconnectedness and fragmentation in the post MENA context. The case of Turkey is also significant in terms of our understanding of the relationship between statehood, sovereignty and borders in the Middle East, in four ways.

First, while acknowledging that full state control over the entirety of its borders is largely a conceptual construct, the role played by the Turkish state in the fluctuating nature of the border over decades, and particularly in the years between and , shows that the central authority has considerable power over the regulatory, and hence inclusionary and exclusionary, function of the border. The use of this discretionary power has significant impacts on both local populations and the entire society, and hence on politics.

Turkey's border management pattern during the early part of the conflict also illustrates the point that the problem is not always an unintentional loss of control over the border—a problem often attributed to states in the Middle East—caused by the state's incapacity or indifference in respect of securing its borders. Rather, Turkey's border strategy in these earlier stages shows that the state's discretion over the nature of the border might in fact be the main reason behind increased porosity at parts of it.

Paradoxically, this deliberate blurring of the border might be pursued for the sake of preserving the conventional modern state structure and the border status quo, when the state perceives a border-crossing threat to them. Second, the case at hand reaffirms the difficulty that centralized interpretations of modern statehood and sovereignty, with their presumption of borders neatly confining the nation, have in accommodating minorities. The increasing pressure on authorities holding centralized understandings of statehood is especially acute when the relative erosion of state authority in one of the neighbouring countries leads to enhanced cross-border connections between particular populations, as well as to the strengthening of minority political projects with territorial claims.

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Third, Turkey's defence of its understanding of statehood and sovereignty, in line with the conventional model, shows that despite widespread claims of the artificiality of the Sykes—Picot borders and the lack of roots in the region of western understandings of statehood and sovereignty, authorities largely adhere to both the modern nation-state model and the type of borders it suggests. This point confirms Fawcett's argument that the status quo is the default position of states, which partly explains border resilience in the MENA region.

Finally, the case of Turkey shows that the state's use of borders to preserve its sovereignty, sustaining the congruity of territory, authority and the bounded political community, might actually generate an effect opposite to that intended. While such measures might help preserve the state's formal authority over its territory, on the other hand, particularly for societies demarcated by several complex identity boundaries—as is often the case in the MENA region—they might also lead to strong political contestation and considerable loss of popular legitimacy among sections of the population.

Syrian Crisis: Reasons and Implications in a nutshelll - Clear IAS

If popular legitimacy is understood to be one of its crucial attributes, then this would mean an overall weakening of state sovereignty. Oxford University Press is a department of the University of Oxford. It furthers the University's objective of excellence in research, scholarship, and education by publishing worldwide.

Sign In or Create an Account. Close mobile search navigation Article navigation. The Turkey—Syria border before Turkey's redefined interests in the context of post Syria. Turkey's contentious border politics during the evolving conflict in Syria. The impact of Turkey's border management modalities on domestic politics.

Syrian Crisis: Reasons and Implications in a nutshell

Turkey's post approach to its Syrian border and its implications for domestic politics Asli S. Abstract This article examines the implications of the post conflict in Syria for the relationship between Turkey's shifting border politics and its domestic politics, focusing on the period until mid Ashgate, , pp. Unless otherwise noted at point of citation, all URLs cited in this article were accessible on 22 May Polity, , p. European University Institute, , p. Institute for Education and Research, Journal of German Orient Institute Tauris, , pp.

Harriet Allsopp, The Kurds of Syria: Chatham House, July Bipartisan Policy Center, , p. International Crisis Group, Flight of Icarus? It should be noted that the PYD has continued to have popular legitimacy problems owing to suspicions of its alliance with the regime and its submission to the PKK. See Allsopp, The Kurds of Syria , pp.

Brookings Institution, May , p. As of 17 May , the number of Syrians registered as being under temporary protection in Turkey was declared as 3,, For some examples, see: Syrian spillover risks for Turkey , Europe Report no. Turkey kept underlining that inadequate intelligence sharing by European countries on suspected foreign terrorist fighters at earlier stages of the conflict had affected its interdiction capacity negatively.

According to an Atlantic Council study, Kurds from Turkey constituted See Itani and Stein, Turkey's Syria predicament , p. Five million Syrians have fled to Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and Egypt, putting host countries and communities under great pressure. Moreover, violence has spilled over into some neighbouring countries, including Lebanon. The impact of the Syrian crisis on Lebanon has been immense. Since the outbreak of the crisis in , up to 1. The situation in neighbouring Syria has exacerbated Lebanon's political instability, and led to political deadlock for the past three years.

This, in turn, has made it impossible to tackle some urgent challenges arising from the refugee presence, and from underlying structural problems with the delivery of basic services to the Lebanese population. Moreover, there are concerns, particularly among Christians, Shias and Druze, that a large number of Syrian Sunni Muslims could upset the delicate sectarian balance in Lebanon's multi-confessional political system.