Syrian Turkmen

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Syrian Turkmens
Total population
Variously estimated at 100,000[1] 750,000-1,500,000,[2][3][4] or 3,500,000[4][5][6]
Regions with significant populations
Aleppo  · Damascus  · Upper Mesopotamia  · Hama  · Homs  · Latakia[7]
Turkish  · Arabic [8][9]  · Azerbaijanis[10]
Predominately Sunni Islam[11]
Related ethnic groups
Oghuz Turks (Turkish people  · Azerbaijanis  · Iraqi Turkmen  · Turks in Egypt)

Syrian Turkmens (also referred to as Syrian Turkoman or Syrian Turks) (Turkish: Suriye Türkleri) are Syrian citizens of Turkic heritage and identity. They and their ancestors have lived in present-day Syria since Seljuq times in the 11th century.[12]

During the Syrian Civil War, the Turkmen population of Syria have been involved in military actions against Syrian government forces and have looked to Turkey for support and protection. More recently, they united under one official governing body, the Syrian Turkmen Assembly and created the military wing of the assembly, the Syrian Turkmen Brigades, to protect Turkmen regions and population and prevent ethnic changes in them.[13]


Main articles: Zengid dynasty and Ottoman Syria
Flag declared by the Syrian Turkmen Assembly
Other flags used by Syrian Turkmen and Syrian Turkmen Brigades on battlefield and various places.

Turkmens have had a presence in Syria since the 11th century,[14] when nomadic Turkmen tribes immigrated to the area from Anatolia and Mesopotamia.[15] By the 12th century, the Turkmens became a power in Syria and Imad ad-Din Zengi, founder of the Turkic Zengid dynasty, settled Turkmens in the wilayah of Aleppo to confront the Crusaders. In return for their military service, Zengi distributed fiefs in the area to the Turkmens.[14] By the 13th century, Turkmens formed a part of the armies of Damascus and Aleppo.[14] They lived in the districts of the latter, including a suburb of the city itself called al-Hadir al-Sulaymani.[14] In addition, they had a presence on the Syrian coast and in the Golan Heights.[14] After the Bahri sultan of the Mamluks, Baibars, destroyed Qara he settled Turkmens in the town in 1265. Two years later he settled more Turkmens in the Syrian coast to protect the region.[14] The Turkmen were called on to assist in the capture of Margat by the Muslim commander of the Krak des Chevaliers in 1280.[14] The late Mamluk-era writer Ahmad al-Qalqashandi noted that Turkmens formed contingents in the regular armies of greater Syria. The 15th-century Muslim writer Khalil az-Zahiri recorded 180,000 Turkmen soldiers in these armies, as well as 20,000 Kurds.[14]

The Turkmens mainly inhabited northern Syria where they transitioned into a sedentary way of life, forming settlements. During the Ottoman era (1517-1917), Turkmen communities were largely autonomous and led by hereditary chiefs, and their handful of villages were partially organized by tribe. According to the population records of Ottoman Empire in 1518, the total population of Aleppo Eyalet was 54,276, of whom 36,217 belonged to the Turkmen population.[16] During the 16th century, the Ottomans settled Turkmens in the rural areas around Homs and Hama to keep the bedouin in check and serve as mütesellim.[17]


A map of religious and ethnic communities of Syria and Lebanon (1935)

There are no clear estimates on the number of Turkmen in Syria. No official statistics exist: Syria's population census does not record ethnic origin, language, or religion. Historical estimates from 1964 put the Turkmen population at 30,000 in 1964, 60,000 in 1965, 94,000 in 1978 and a Turkic-speaking population of 88,000 in addition to 6,000 Anatolian Turks in 1988, with this last indicating they comprise 1.2% of the Syrian population, although other estimates put the Turkmen share of the population at 3%, making them "one of the smallest minority groups in the country", according to historian C. H. Bleaney.[15] Sunni Islam, the Turkmens' shared religion with the majority of Syrians, eased Turkmen assimilation in Syrian society and in certain regions where Turkmens live, they are "almost completely Arabized", according to Bleaney.[15]

Several sources put them currently at around 100,000[1] to 200,000.[18] Some Syrian Turkmen and Turkish sources, on the other hand have claimed to number between 750,000 and 1,500,000,[12] while the Syrian Turkmen Assembly's Turkmen National Council announced 3.5 million as the number of Turkmen in Syria.[19]

Geographic distribution[edit]

Most Turkmens in Syria live in the area around the northern Euphrates basin near Aleppo and in scattered villages in central Syria, particularly around Homs and Hama.[17] Some larger Turkmen communities in the vicinity of Homs and Hama include Houla, Aqrab and Talaf.[20] The Turkish Encyclopedia claims there are 523 Turkmen villages in Syria.[21] The main areas of Turkmen concentration are the regions straddling the Turkish border, particularly in the Aleppo and Latakia Governorates. The cities of Aleppo, Manbij, al-Bab, Jarabulus, Azaz, Qatma all have significant Turkmen populations, largely descendants of the Barak tribes, which also dominate the Turkish areas of Kilis, Gaziantep and Şanlıurfa. In the Latakia Governorate, the border regions of Ras al-Bassit and an area which is considered a stretch of the Hatay Province of Turkey called Bayırbucak (from two different areas, Bayır and Bucak) are predominantly populated by Turkmens.[21]

Notable people[edit]

See also[edit]

References and notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b Phillips, David J. (1 January 2001). Peoples on the Move: Introducing the Nomads of the World. William Carey Library. p. 301. ISBN 978-0-87808-352-7. Retrieved 12 November 2012. 
  2. ^ Nahost-Informationsdienst (ISSN 0949–1856): Presseausschnitte zu Politik, Wirtschaft und Gesellschaft in Nordafrika und dem Nahen und Mittleren Osten. Autors: Deutsches Orient–Institut; Deutsches Übersee–Institut. Hamburg: Deutsches Orient–Institut, 1996, seite 33.
  3. ^ World Population Review, Syrian Population 2013, "Other major groups in Syria are Kurds (2 million), Syrian Turkmen (0.75-1.5 million) and Assyrians (0.9 to 1.2 million)."
  4. ^ a b "Who are the Turkmen in Syria?". BBC. 24 November 2015. Retrieved 25 November 2015. 
  5. ^ ORSAM Report No: 150, Center for Middle Eastern Strategic Studies
  6. ^ ORSAM Report No: 83, The Turkmens of Syria, Quoted from page 16 (in Turkish): "Değişik kaynaklar ve saha çalışmasında elde edilen verilerden yola çıkarak Suriye Türkmenlerinin toplam nüfusu 3,5 milyon civarındadır."
  7. ^ Commins 2004, 268.
  8. ^ Galié & Yildiz 2005, 18.
  9. ^ Karpat 2004, 436.
  10. ^
  11. ^ Shora 2008, 236.
  12. ^ a b Özkaya 2007, 112.
  13. ^ Dispossessed Turkomans in Syria wait for Turkey’s support
  14. ^ a b c d e f g h Ziadeh, pp. 45–46.
  15. ^ a b c C. H. Bleaney, "The Turkic Peoples of Syria" in "Turkic Peoples Of The World", pp. 206–209.
  16. ^ Öztürk Mustafa, 1616 Tarihli Halep Avarız-Hane Defteri, Read Online, p.255 (in Turkish).
  17. ^ a b Commins, David; Lesch, David W. (2014). Historical Dictionary of Syria. p. 330. 
  18. ^ AFP (31 January 2013). "Turkmen in joint battle 'for Syria democracy'". NOW. Retrieved 4 February 2013. 
  19. ^
  20. ^ Hartmann, 2012, p. 54.
  21. ^ a b The Turkmen of Syria: exposed early to assimilation and deportation policies, Page: 4-5, Iraqi Turkmen Human Rights Foundation, February 15, 2012, Paper No: Art.1-A1512,