In a recent interview with TRT World, President Recep made clear his ambition for Ankara’s military offensive against in northern . In an almost two-hour program on October 24, he explained his plan for demographic change in the region. Erdogan emphasized the resettlement of more than 3 million Syrian Arab refugees to the heartland of . He added that the proposed safe-zone near the Turkey- border with the building of a city for refugees would be a historic victory.state broadcaster
What was surprising was Erdogan’s claim that the dry environment in northernand the lifestyle is his reason for planning to change the demographics of this region. During the interview, he showed a map of territory — known as Rojava — in and said that it belongs to Arabs, not , since it is not a suitable place for . Erdogan’s logic is that as these areas are essentially a desert, then only Arabs can live in the desert.
The Turkish president’s claim raises questions: Is that region a desert and arenot suitable for this environment? To answer this, it is essential to understand the difference between northern and southern Turkey as both parts are inhabited by . The “desert territory” that Erdogan mentions is just a few minutes away from Turkey’s region.
Since the 1916 Sykes-Picot Agreement that carved up the Middle East between the British and French, the and their territory have been divided across Turkey, , Iraq and Iran. On the Turkey- border, there is a simple wire separating the two countries. That is why both sides are just a few minutes away from each other and have the same terrain. So, how is it possible to say that who live in have a different lifestyle from those who live next door in Turkey?
With this in mind, it is clear that Erdogan’s claim is illogical. Added to that, there is no desert in northernand the lifestyle of Arabs has changed as well — they do not live in the desert. So, why does Erdogan insist on changing the demographics in the Kurdish region of ?
The Arab Belt
To answer this question, it is important to understand that this strategy of changing the population of theregion is not new and did not start with Erdogan. Rather, it was a Syrian regime project from the mid-1960s when the Baath party decided to create an “Arab belt.” This consisted of a 10-to-15-kilometer region along the – border. The plan anticipated the deportation of 140,000 living in 332 villages situated inside this area and replacing them with Syrian Arabs. The plan was to separate so they could not live in a united territory in northern , preventing them from any future claim for independence.
Yet the plan was not realized until the 1970s when around 4,000 Arab families were moved to 41 farms in’s -majority Jazira region as well as to 15 farms north of Raqqa. Led by Hafez al-Assad, the Arabization campaign of Jazira was halted in 1976, but the status quo remained unchanged. As a result of Arabization, the region in — unlike other parts of Turkey, Iran and Iraq — is not a united territory.
Today, Erdogan is planning to apply the same initiative. He is trying to change the Kurdish region in the Middle East by eliminating Kurdish social and political structures in this part of. For some observers, it is believed that the Turkish president is not going to stop there and will extend this plan to Kurdish areas of Iraq and Iran as well.
Turkey’s border with Iran means a similar situation to that of northerncould take place. In this region of northwest Iran, there are mixed ethnic groups, including a majority and an Azari minority — with the latter being in favor of Turkey.
The northwest region of Iran has experienced a number of Simko Shikak revolution. Since Reza Shah Pahlavi, Azari people — who are Shia Muslims — have been settled in this region to prevent the movement and mobilization of .uprisings, such as the 1918-22
Ankara has supported Azari nationalists and, as a result, these groups have encouraged Turkey’s aggressive behavior in Azari parliamentarians such as Ghazi Pour and Muhammad Hasannajad criticized the move by his colleagues in the Majlis.. For instance, when a majority of Iran’s parliament condemned Turkey’s invasion of northern ,
Unlike Syrian Arabs, the Azari population in Iran see themselves as part of Turkey, and they call for linking Iran’s Azerbaijan province with Turkey. On October 20, Ahmat Yigit Yildrim, a tweeted that after northern , it would be northwest Iran’s turn to be attacked. He also added that Iran’s northwest province would be part of a greater Turkey., pro-Erdogan parliamentarian,
Erdogan’s support for Azari groups in Iran is likely to result in added tension between Ankara and Tehran in the near future.
Iraqi Kurdistan could be another victim of Erdogan’s plan. In recent years, Turkey has bombed border villages in Iraq. Ankara claims that fighters aligned with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, which the Turks call a terrorist organization, use this region as a base to attack Turkey. These raids that have mostly targeted the regions close to the Turkey-Iraq border have caused the evacuation of hundreds of villages and the displacement of thousands of people.
The implementation of Erdogan’s strategy depends on political developments in. If he is able to settle 3 million Syrian Arab refugees in regions of northern , then this could be the start of his master plan.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Fair Observer’s editorial policy.
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