Thursday, February 28, 2013

Antakya and Syria's Civil War

Kurdish blogger Dilar Dirik writes about the effects of Syria's civil war on her native Antakya, in the Turkish province of Hatay:
Increasingly worried, the people of Hatay witness the horror of the civil war on their doorstep. Those who have always been proud of their cosmopolitan hometown of peaceful religious and ethnic co-existence now report that the atmosphere of their once tolerant province has changed to the worse. Aside from the suffering economy, many feel harassed by the warriors that fight in Syria during the day, and spend the night in Antakya. Local sources claim that Turkey trains rebels to send them across the border - among them jihadists with Al Qaeda ties. The population of Antakya started campaigns like “I want my Antakya back,” to protest government policies that take advantage of Hatay as a host for warriors.
Alawite Arabs, who form the majority in Hatay, hold strong sympathies with the internationally condemned Syrian president Bashar Al-Assad. Threatened by the rise of religious fundamentalism among parts of the rebel forces, many of these liberal democrats and Kemalists prefer Assad’s rule out of fear of what Syria’s and their own future might hold if a Sunni majority, taken advantage of by jihadist groups, seizes power across the border. Existing political loyalties for Turkish parties transcend the border to find their expression in solidarities within the Syrian context. The population in the city of peaceful co-existence feels threatened by the increasing politically religious face of the revolutionaries, and fears for the secular regime in Syria, as though secularism was a sufficient guarantor for democracy. Bashar and Asma Assad are seen as a modern couple and enjoy an almost iconic status among supporters.
Has anyone else heard of Turkey serving as a base of fighters entering Syria?  If true, that would be a diplomatic card I expect Assad to use more.

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