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Erdogan Zeroes in on Northeast Syria, Threatens Safety of Christians and Other Minorities

02-04-2019
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Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Photo. Facebook

TURKISH-SYRIAN BORDER – When President Donald Trump first announced US troops would leave Syria, it sent shockwaves through the region. Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan threatened to invade northeast Syria where a number of ethnic minorities, including thousands of Christians, live. 

The people of this region saw almost immediately the effect of President Trump's announcement. 

"The impact of the withdrawal of the US forces is mainly because the Turks have started threatening us,” Ahmed Mousa, SDF Commander told CBN News.

One proposal is that Turkey would control a 20-mile security zone all along the Turkish Syrian border.  For many people, that would lead to a disaster. 

Many Christians fear military action against them.

"Most of our Christian people live in this area and if any military operation happened in this area, it will be a real fear on our people,” explained Abdelahad Gawriye of the Syriac Union Party.

Yet Erdogan insists on this security zone. 

"We expect the promise to establish a safe zone to be fulfilled within a few months to ensure our country is protected from terrorists on our borders.  Otherwise, we will establish this buffer zone ourselves,” Erdogan recently announced.

Those terrorists are actually US allies who fought together to drive out ISIS.   While Erdogan typically only mentions the Kurds, northeast Syria is also home to Christians, Arabs, Yazidis and other minorities. This melting pot has now established a new democracy here.   

"Now [Erdogan] wants to control the entire region, so he uses the pursuit of ISIS as his pet project, a smokescreen, to get at the rest of us, and that's why he sees democracy as a danger,” said Nuri Mahmud, spokesman for the YPG (translation of the acronym for People's Protection Units of the Kurdish area of Syria).

Recently, Erdogan set his sights on northeast Syria, east of the Euphrates River saying when it is "cleared from militants the millions of people will have a chance to return to their homes."

He made similar statements last year before his army, which is part of NATO, overran the Syrian city of Afrin. Along with jihadist mercenaries, it displaced hundreds of thousands while searching for Christians and burning churches.   

Some here see that invasion and this year's push for the security zone as part of Erdogan’s vision to revive the Ottoman Empire.  

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