Syria is in dire straits, the international community remains fractured, and the "friends of Syria" -- which have lately been acting more like "frenemies" -- have elevated their own national interests over the needs of the Syrian people. Turkey is no exception.
At the outset of the crisis, Ankara prioritized diplomacy over military action. Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu sought to convince Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to make top down cosmetic democratic reforms to appease the growing anti-government protest movement. Yet, after repeated trips to Damascus, Turkey gave up on Assad in August 2011. In turn, Turkey adopted a three-pronged policy of conventional deterrence, border defense, and, by August 2011, outright regime change brought about by external intervention via support for proxy groups.
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"After these years of killings, what else can people feel but distrust?" asked rights campaigner Raci Bilici, who was trying to make himself heard over the rumble of a military helicopter flying low across the sky.
The ancient walls of Diyarbakir, the unofficial capital of Turkey's Kurdish separatist movement, loomed overhead as Bilici traced the mass grave of 29 murdered political prisoners that were found here just one year ago. "So much has changed for the better, but this is still a city where nobody wants to know what is buried under their feet."
Hemmed in by military bases and patrolled by rock-battered armored cars, Diyarbakir is supposed to be a city moving toward peace. This week, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced a reform package aimed at expanding rights for the country's 15-million Kurds, billing the measure as a step toward ending a 30-year ethnic conflict that has taken at least 40,000 lives and devastated the country's southeast.
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On September 5, 2012, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan told CNN's Christiane Amanpour that the United States "lacked initiative" in dealing with the crisis in Syria. "There are certain things being expected from the United States. Obama has not yet catered to those expectations," he said. A year later Erdogan finds himself at sharper odds with the U.S. administration, whose decision to head off planned strikes on Syria has left him in a lonely spot both at home and in the region.
To Erdogan, a strong advocate of regime change, anything short of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's ouster carries the risk of further weakening his hand domestically and regionally. Only a few years ago Turkey was praised as a non-sectarian actor mediating regional conflicts through its access to various actors from Iran to Israel, Hamas to Fatah. The Syrian conflict, however, has dealt a blow to its image as a regional superpower pursuing non-sectarian foreign policy. Turkey's active support for the Sunni-majority Syrian opposition in what has become a largely sectarian civil war has projected Turkey as a Sunni power with a sectarian regional agenda, thus making it appear less impartial and leading to a slide in its regional influence. With the Saudis taking over the Syria portfolio from Turkey and Qatar and the establishment of the recent Russian-U.S. deal, Turkey has been marginalized in regional and international efforts to tackle the Syrian crisis.
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Boxed into a corner by U.S. President Barack Obama's "red line" that the Assad regime has crossed with its apparent use of chemical weapons on August 21, the United States finds itself on the verge of intervening militarily in Syria's increasingly brutal and complex civil war.
Whatever the United States and its allies decide to do in Syria, scant attention has been paid to the few important lessons that can be drawn from the multilateral intervention in Libya two years ago. Libya teaches us three things: 1) any intervention has to have a clear political strategy defining the mission's objectives as well as plans to counteract the undesirable but foreseeable consequences that are natural byproducts of any intervention 2) limited intervention -- like the kind under consideration for Syria --could have very dangerous consequences, potentially more dangerous than a less limited intervention 3) the political legitimacy conferred by Arab and regional powers, such as Turkey or Qatar, is essential for the success and public relations aspect of the intervention, but also creates its own difficulties which must be actively counteracted.
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For the first time in their modern history, the Kurds can look beyond the mountains for friends. This was not the case just a short time ago. The failure to negotiate statehood, largely due to an inability to present a united front following the collapse of the Ottoman Empire in the post-World War I new regional order, isolated their communities into four separate states (Iraq, Syria, Turkey, and Iran) and silenced their voice on the international stage for much of the 20th century. During this time, as minorities at the behest of Arab, Turkish, and Persian nationalisms, they were subjected to discrimination, segregation, and at times, genocide.
Today, however, the situation of the Middle East's largest ethnic group without a state has improved and the 40 million or so Kurds are again confronted with an opportunity to take charge of their own affairs. In Iraq, the Kurds have experienced autonomy since the United States, Britain, and France established a safe haven in 1991 that led to the creation of a Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG). This lasted through the 2003 Iraq war and the Kurdistan Region has developed into a semi-autonomous and economically thriving de facto state with a national force, the peshmerga (literally meaning "those who face death"), that maintains sovereignty over its territory and a crafty diplomatic corps that frames a Kurd-friendly Iraqi state-building process and wins allies in the strategic cities of Ankara and Washington.
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QANDIL MOUNTAINS, IRAQ -- Murat Karayilan's mustached face soured as he read from the daily intelligence report prepared by his field commanders in the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), the rebel group that has fought Turkey since 1984.
The Turkish army is flying Cobra attack helicopters even as PKK guerrillas withdraw from Turkey to camps in northern Iraq, the report said. U.S. drones still buzz over the PKK's mountain strongholds. Turkish military operations continue near the Iraqi border, the militants have written.
Karayilan, chairman of the executive council of the Kurdistan Communities Union (KCK), the umbrella formation that encompasses the PKK, denounced these and other "provocations," but insisted they will not upset the tentative peace process with Ankara as long as there are no attacks. The PKK's broad popular support and impenetrable mountain fortress on the Iraqi border with Iran offer it the choice of continuing the insurgency. But Karayilan sees the PKK's future in the cities of Turkey, not the rebel hideouts he has waged war from for almost 30 years.
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For two weeks, massive anti-government protests have rocked Turkey, a country widely seen as a bastion of stability and secular democracy in its region. According to official statements, four people have been killed and up to 5,000 injured during the countrywide clashes between police and protesters. The uprisings are becoming the biggest challenge to the government of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) since it came to power in 2002.
But this is not the first time the party has been faced with mass protests. In 2007, popular "republican rallies" threatened to unsettle the government. Then, much like now, secular sensitivities were among the motivations of the protesters. International media often portrayed the fault lines in terms of Islamists versus secularists, or "black Turks" versus "white Turks." Then as now, the government vilified the protesters as autocrats who wanted to bring back military tutelage and impose the will of a minority on the pro-government majority. It accused them of conspiring with the "deep state" and with corporate and foreign interests in order to depose the elected government.
It is somewhat ironic that of all the images shown on Turkish television channels during the violent police crackdown in Istanbul's Gezi Park -- from cooking shows to soap opera reruns -- penguins should become the symbol of media censorship in Turkey's ongoing protests. After all, it is a magazine called Penguen that constitutes a bastion of social and political satire in Turkish media, using impressive wit to critique that which mainstream media most often does not -- or, more accurately, cannot. Now infamous for being the country with the most jailed journalists, Turkey's restrictions on press freedoms stem from an obstreperous prime minister who does not take criticism lightly and the complex business links between his ruling Justice and Development Party (Adalet ve Kalkinma Partisi -- AKP) and the media barons controlling the industry. Despite this highly contracted space for expression, Penguen continues to publish wickedly humorous and searingly critical caricatures of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. For now, at least.
This week's widespread protests in Turkey, which escalated to violent clashes in some places, are unprecedented in recent Turkish politics. They caught most Turks by surprise, including Turkey's government led by the Justice and Development Party (AKP), which tried unsuccessfully to be dismissive. The rapid spread of the demonstrations beyond Istanbul's central Taksim square reveal a latent anger by a significant portion of Turkey's population regarding how the government has been going about its business. A deeper source of the protests, however, is a palpable anxiety about the gradual decline in mechanisms by which the ruling party can be held accountable for its visionary but polarizing policies.
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Nearly 2,000 people pledged to attend "Say ‘DEGAGE' to Erdogan," one of a few solidarity protests Tunisians
have planned for the Turkish prime minister's visit. A small battery of
security vehicles -- some of which, ironically, were purchased with Turkish
assistance -- stand sentry at the Turkish Embassy in Tunis awaiting likely demonstrators.
It's an altogether different welcoming for Turkish Prime Minister Reccep Tayyip Erdogan, who last visited Tunisia in September 2011 as part of what might be termed his Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region victory lap.
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The demonstrations started in Istanbul a few days ago. The initial objective was to protect the park in Taksim, Istanbul's central square, from being demolished and replaced by a shopping mall. But the police intervened with excessive force against a peaceful assembly, liberally using tear gas to disperse protesters. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan stated that the project will go ahead regardless of the "few" people that oppose it. As a result, this local dispute was unexpectedly transformed into a city and then a nation-wide mass demonstration against his polarizing style.
The mass protests should be seen as a reaction against the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and Erdogan's style of majoritarian governance. By cementing a pro-government majority and avoiding consensus on sensitive issues, Erdogan's political strategy has polarized Turkish society. This majoritarian approach to decision-making has worked well for him so far. He not only succeeded in setting the agenda for the country, but he also increased his popular support over three successive elections. But it now seems that this style of governance has reached the limit of Turkish society's tolerance. The recent adoption of a law on alcohol that significantly impedes the marketing, sales, and consumption of alcoholic drinks had already stirred a debate in Turkey about the government's negligence to take into account the sensitivities of Turkey's non-conservatives. Moreover, Erdogan's defense of the law by referencing religious principles only served to provoke the law's secular opponents. Instead the decision to transform a public park in the central square of Istanbul into a shopping mall became the rallying theme for many Turks to demonstrate their dissatisfaction with Erdogan's leadership.
As Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan visits Washington this week, he will prod the White House to increase its support for the Syrian opposition and will likely encourage President Barack Obama to consider enforcing a no-fly zone. The powerful prime minister has been a forceful advocate for multi-lateral intervention in Syria, arguing that the international community has a collective responsibility to help oust President Bashar al-Assad and bring the conflict to an end.
Erdogan's request will almost certainly take on a more urgent tone after tragic bombings in Reyhanli -- a refugee filled town on the Syrian border -- killed nearly 50 people. Despite Erdogan's close relationship with Obama, Turkey's requests are not likely to gain much traction with the White House. And, in fact, the meeting is likely to focus more on U.S. requests of Turkey, rather than the other way around.
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The growing reports of increased U.S. support for the armed opposition in Syria with the training of Free Syrian Army (FSA) militias in Jordan and the facilitating of arms shipments into the country through Turkey mark an increase in overall U.S. assistance over two years into the conflict. While such actions are tempting in efforts to bring an end to Syria's deepening civil war, a military solution for either side has not been achievable these past two years. What is needed, instead, is to combine military assistance with a coordinated strategy of capacity building within the opposition, which can then have measurable results and reinforce international efforts to find a political solution to the crisis.
A better-trained, organized opposition that is able to make political and military gains could change not only the situation on the ground, but also the perception of the crisis in Russia and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's inner circle. Based on our conversations with former senior members of the Assad regime and individuals in contact with the regime presently, Assad is still confident that he can manage to suppress the uprisings and bring the opposition to the table to negotiate on his terms.
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After a three-year rupture, one of the most important relationships in the Middle East is on the cusp of repair. It will be a long while before Turkey and Israel can go back to business as usual, and the relationship will remain hostage to Israeli policy toward Palestinians. Nevertheless, last month's Israeli apology to Turkey has far-reaching implications for the region. It clears a path for the two countries to work together, albeit behind-the-scenes, on their most urgent common concern -- Syria -- as well as a host of other issues, including military technology and NATO-Israel cooperation.
The impasse broke two weeks ago when Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu apologized to his Turkish counterpart, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, for a 2010 Israeli raid that resulted in the deaths of nine Turkish citizens. The two countries' relationship had been strained in the preceding years, in part because of Israel's war in Gaza, Operation Cast Lead, in December 2008 to January 2009. In the summer of 2009, Erdogan famously stormed off a stage at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland after a clash with Israel's President Shimon Peres over the war. But the 2010 raid gave Erdogan an opportunity to curry favor at home with the MHP, the Nationalist Action Party, and raise his regional stature further.
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After nearly three decades of bloody struggle with the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), Turkey might finally be entering a post-conflict era. On Wednesday, the PKK's jailed leader Abdullah Ocalan, who has been serving a life sentence on Imrali Island since 1999, called for an immediate cease-fire and for thousands of his fighters to withdraw from Turkish territory. The call followed a round of talks that began in October 2012 between Turkey's National Intelligence Organization (MIT) and Ocalan to convince the PKK fighters to lay down their arms and withdraw from Turkish soil. On Ocalan's counsel and in a gesture of good will, the PKK released eight Turkish soldiers and civil servants last week that had been abducted almost two years ago.
Ocalan's call could mark the first step in ending one of the world's longest running insurgencies. If it were to succeed, it would also favorably impact Turkey's democratization process, as well as possibly change the course of the Syrian uprising.
Only a few years back, the idea of an independent Kurdistan bordering Turkey would have had Ankara up in arms. Not anymore. Past tensions have been supplanted by a new energy partnership and Turkey seems far less worried about the prospect of an independent Kurdistan. In May 2012, Turkey and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) cut a deal to build one gas and two oil pipelines directly from Kurdish-controlled northern Iraq to Turkey without the approval of Baghdad, taking the rapprochement started between the two in 2009 one step further. If realized, the Kurdish pipelines will for the first time provide the Kurds direct access to world markets, bypassing the Baghdad controlled Kirkuk-Ceyhan (Turkey) pipeline bringing the KRG one step closer to the long-held dream of Kurdish independence.
Some pundits have argued that for this very reason Turkish approval of a Kurdish pipeline is a long shot. But the construction seems to be underway. According to Turkish press, the KRG has already begun construction on the oil and gas pipelines which are due to be operational by early 2014.
The resumption of talks between the Turkish government and imprisoned Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Ocalan has raised hopes for a solution to the Kurdish issue. An advisor to Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced a Dec. 31 interview that disarmament negotiations were occurring in Imrali prison, where Ocalan is serving a life sentence. They are the first confirmed state-PKK talks since mid-2011. Nothing is known for certain about their specific content, which only the government has commented on to date. But the fact that Erdogan confirmed and took clear responsibility for the meetings has created hope for a breakthrough. A Jan. 3 visit by Kurdish parliamentarians to Imrali -- the first of its kind in the talks -- was also hailed as a historic.
The Imrali meetings are an important step, but Ankara's repeated failure to follow through on expectations for progress on the conflict counsels against premature optimism. If they are to result in anything more than another wave of disappointment, the AKP must drop its goal of defeating the Kurdish political movement in favor of a genuine, negotiated agreement acceptable to all parties, including the PKK.
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Amidst intense public controversy, Turkey's ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) is moving to ban the widely popular television series Muhtesem Yuzyil (The Magnificent Century). Critics of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's AKP government have been expecting, with a fair dose of cynicism, such a move ever since he denounced the series as an inappropriate characterization of Turkey's ancestry. The series has already been removed from the inflight entertainment system of Turkey's national air carrier; yesterday a Turkish Airlines official cited Erdogan's remarks as the reason for this removal.
Muhtesem Yuzyil, now in its third season and watched by nearly 150 million viewers in Turkey and its neighbors, takes inspiration from the life and adventures of Sulieman the Magnificent, the Ottoman Empire's longest ruling sultan (1520-1566). While Sulieman is lauded in history textbooks for his many battlefield conquests that led to the great expansion of Ottoman-controlled territory and for being the architect of the empire's "Golden Age" of military, legal, and cultural development, the majority of the dramatic content of the series consists of palace intrigues involving assassination plots and competition among women in the palace harem.
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The last time Erkan Yildirim visited his imprisoned wife, Pervin, she told him about her recent meeting with their colleague, Fatma. "Pervin said Fatma was very sluggish, that her eyes were slowly darkening, that two or three people had to bring her to and from the bathroom," says Yildirim, nearly choking on the words. At that time, Fatma had been on a hunger strike for more than a month.
What his wife said next, however, was even more troubling. Pervin informed Yildirim that she was about to begin her own indefinite hunger strike.
The United States must shift the paradigm on Syria. Escalating tensions between Syria and Turkey are the latest indicator that Syria's crisis is spiraling out of control. With Russia now pulled into the fray, the conflict has the potential to escalate significantly. Horrific violence inside Syria has dramatically increased civilian death tolls and sparked an exponential rise in refugee flows. The current policy debate largely focuses on the relative merits of providing (directly or indirectly) more sophisticated weapons to the opposition versus the establishment of a protected safe zone in northern Syria. Yet, these tactical military interventions carry significant downside risks. The deepening crisis between Syria and Turkey amid Syria's worsening civil conflict presents an important opportunity for U.S. leadership and diplomacy. Washington should seize on these latest developments to build a coalition for bringing an end to the violence and establishing a political solution to the Syrian crisis.
Further militarization of the Syrian conflict would exacerbate an already volatile situation on the ground, deepening and protracting Syria's sectarian civil war. Far from providing relief for innocent civilians, fueling the conflict with more arms risks further endangering civilians. The armed opposition's inability to unify and its continued radicalization as well as enduring divisions between key patrons, Qatar and Saudi Arabia, underscore the inherent risks of this option. Differences among Syria's various armed opposition groups, not to mention between Arabs and Kurds, could erupt into open hostilities in Syria's mounting chaos. Meanwhile, jihadist elements, while still a distinct minority, appear to be gaining influence.
As international attention remains focused on the fighting in Syria, Turkey's military has been fighting lethal battles on its southern border with the Kurdistan's Workers' Party (PKK), which has waged a bloody war against Turkey for almost three decades. Just last week, nine people were killed when a car packed with explosives blew up close to a police station in Gaziantep, a city around 30 miles from the Syrian border. In response, the National Security Council (MGK) convened yesterday to discuss the recent PKK attacks and issued a statement vowing to avert the risks to its national security emanating from the violence in Syria. While the government has come under increased criticism for its Kurdish policy, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is placing the blame on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Ankara suspects the PKK is exploiting the chaos in Syria, and that Assad is supplying it with arms in retaliation for Turkey's support for the Syrian opposition.
The spike in the PKK's terrorist activity in Turkey comes amid mounting concerns in Ankara that the PKK and its affiliates are gaining ground in Turkey's southern neighbor. Particularly alarming was the capture of several towns along the Turkish border by the PKK's Syrian offshoot, the Party of Unity and Democracy (PYD). Turkey watched nervously as Kurdish groups took control of the towns after the withdrawal of Assad forces and hoisted the Kurdish flag over Syrian government buildings, along with posters of the PKK's imprisoned leader, Abdullah Ocalan.
his dazzling blue eyes and angelic smile, 10-month-old Besir lights up any room
he's in. But the only rooms he's ever seen are the insides of tents and cargo
containers. "He's never lived inside a house," says his mother, Hasret, 21,
bouncing him on her knee.
The steel container we're sitting in on this baking August day is one in a sea of 1,120, lined up in rows over a vast gravel field in southeastern Turkey. An average of six people live in each container. Water and electricity are sporadically available, and food is scarce. Most families know they have lost their houses and belongings forever. Most children don't have any toys, or even a change of clothing. Few people know how or when they will be able to move out of the camp.
Talks between Iran and the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany resume again this weekend, with Tehran giving hints that it may take a more constructive attitude to negotiations than it did during the previous round in 2011. Iranian nuclear officials have suggested that Iran might curtail its 20 percent uranium enrichment program, which would meet almost halfway the expected demands of the United States and its so-called P5+1 negotiating partners.
The United States and its allies reportedly plan to demand the immediate cessation of uranium enrichment to 20 percent, and a closure of the hardened Fordow enrichment plant, possibly in exchange for promises of no further sanctions. If the United States and its international partners are able to achieve these objectives, they will significantly slow Iran's progress toward having the capacity to produce a nuclear weapon, score a victory for the two-track policy of diplomacy and economic pressure, and provide a template for more fully resolving outstanding issues surrounding Iran's nuclear program in future talks.
As escalating numbers of Syrians flee across the Turkish border to escape President Bashar al-Assad's brutality, Turkey is stepping up diplomatic efforts to exert increased international pressure on the regime. While the international community is inclined to give Assad more time to implement Kofi Annan's peace plan, Turkey feels that the urgency of the situation demands immediate action. Tensions between Turkey and Syria have further escalated after shots fired across the border wounded four people in Turkey's Kilis refugee camp and Syrian forces and Free Syrian Army fighters clashed over control of a nearby border gate. On Sunday, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned that Turkey would enact measures against the Assad regime if Damascus fails to abide by an April 10 deadline to cease violence. He did not outline what specific steps his government would take, but the likely scenario being floated by the press includes setting up a buffer zone along the border to protect refugees. No matter how Turkey responds to the Syrian crisis, however, it will not easily extract itself from the ongoing turmoil that the country is likely to experience in the months and years ahead. Syria's geopolitical proximity, its Kurdish minority, and the economic, cultural, and strategic cooperation between the two countries raise the stakes for Turkey in finding a swift and sustainable resolution to the Syrian crisis.
The "Arab Spring" is now over one year old. In much of the popular analysis over the past year the term "Arab Spring" has become the defining characteristic of the "new" Middle East emerging from decades of authoritarian and repressive rule. However, one should be cautious about inflating the importance of the democratic uprisings in several Arab countries in shaping the future contours of the Middle East. This caution applies especially to exaggerating both the prospects of democracy -- particularly the unhindered linear transition to representative rule -- in the Arab world and the role of major Arab powers in determining political outcomes in the Middle East in the short and medium-term future.
As tensions escalate between the West and Iran over the country's nuclear program, some Western analysts cannot help but be excited that Turkey's relationship with Iran also seems to be deteriorating. Indeed, the two neighbors, who only recently appeared to be forging a close friendship, now find themselves on opposite sides of conflicts in Syria, Iraq, and Bahrain, with Turkey's decision to host a NATO missile shield as yet another point of divergence. But to suggest that these tensions will lead to a complete breakdown in the Turkey-Iran relationship is to sensationalize the rift, just as earlier fears of an anti-Western Turkish-Iranian alliance misunderstood Ankara's engagement with Tehran.
To be sure, Turkey and Iran's battle for regional hegemony has intensified recently amidst historic changes in the Middle East. In Syria, Turkey has abandoned its close friendship with President Bashar al-Assad, and is leading international efforts to bolster the Syrian opposition and end the humanitarian crisis there. Iran, by contrast, remains one of the few supporters of the Assad regime, and continues to provide arms, surveillance, and training to Syrian security forces as they brutally crush protests.
On the top floor of a towering apartment block in Cairo, half a dozen Syrian activists are hunched over their laptops. Each man organized demonstrations in his home town before escaping the Assad regime's intelligence agents in the last few months. Now, armed with a list of trusted contacts that stretches across the borders from southwest Syria to Lebanon and Jordan, they have become a key link in the supply chain of an opposition movement that is struggling to outmaneuver a brutal crackdown. Donations collected from Syrians and well-wishers in Cairo are used to purchase cell phones, satellite communications equipment, medicine, and money, which is smuggled to friends and family members on the inside. In turn, protesters send out video evidence of attacks, which the men in Cairo catalogue, upload to YouTube, and forward to media outlets.
The men work with close contacts in their own villages and neighborhoods, independently of organizing committees or opposition bodies. Abdel Youssef fled from Ad Dumayr, a city northeast of Damascus. Syrian authorities went door to door there searching for military defectors on Wednesday night and he spent the day following their movements through eyewitness accounts. As he tells the story of how he fled, a Skype window flashes up on his screen. A woman he knows tells him that security forces attempting to arrest a man have captured his daughter instead. "Now I'm looking out the window," the message reads. "She is being beaten up by the security forces because she is saying ‘Allahu Akhbar'." Abdel Youssef passes on information like this to a contact in the Free Syrian Army, who he says use this information to block roads and set up ambushes in an attempt to protect demonstrations.
Any time spent in Turkey and one cannot help but be taken in by the country's economic dynamism and political vibrancy that is unique in the region it inhabits. With a 9 percent growth rate in its GDP in 2010, Turkey has become the fastest growing economy in the OECD and is projected to remain so until 2017. Its commitment to democratic governance was demonstrated in the elections earlier this year that kept the ruling AKP in power with almost 50 percent of the votes. That the Turkish democratic process has become irreversible was confirmed soon thereafter by the fact that the resignation of Turkey's top four generals in an effort to unnerve and destabilize the civilian government hardly created a stir in the country. Even a couple of years ago such a deliberately contrived crisis could have provided the military brass with an excuse for staging a coup.
In the midst of all the changes the Arab Spring has brought in Egypt, Tunisia, and Libya, among others, the intelligent lay, media, and policy worlds have remained largely deaf to the Kurdish question. This is an unfortunate situation because much has occurred concerning Kurdish nationalism, particularly in the aftermath of the Arab Spring. However, the Kurdish version of the Arab Spring did not just begin in 2011, but has been going on for decades: In Turkey (at least since the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) formally began its insurgency in August 1984), as well as in Iraq since the days of Mulla Mustafa Barzani beginning in the early 1960s, but especially since the end of the two U.S. wars against Saddam Hussein in 1991 and even more in 2003. These two wars led to the creation of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in northern Iraq, the most successful attempt at Kurdish statehood in modern times.
Tehran initially viewed the rise of the Islamist Justice and Development Party (AKP) in Turkey with much enthusiasm. It has turned into a nightmare. Turkey's shift against the Assad regime in Syria, and its manifest ideological appeal in a changing Middle East, now has Iranian leaders viewing Ankara as a key part of a U.S. scheme with the Arab States in the Persian Gulf aimed directly at them.
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