Turkish involvement in the Syrian Civil War

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Turkish involvement in the Syrian Civil War
Turkey (orange) and Syria (green)
Date 5 December 2011 (2011-12-05)–present
(6 years, 3 months and 2 weeks)
Location Syria


  • Turkey experiences clashes between Syrian border troops, ISIL militants and SDF.
  • Turkish aid to the Syrian Opposition, and protection to Syrian Turkmen Brigades.
  • Turkey-Russia tensions rise as Turkey shoots downs
  • Syrian government forces capture most of the Turkmen Mountain with Russian military aid.[10][11]
  • Normalisation of Russia-Turkey relations, following Erdogan expressing regret to Vladimir Putin for the Su-24 shoot-down and apologizing to the pilot's family.[12][13]
  • Turkish recognition of Bashar Al-Asad in part of the political solution to the conflict.[14]
  • Turkish military intervention in Syria directed at Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) as well as against the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) until 29 March 2017.
  • Turkish military intervention in Afrin directed against SDF starting 20 January 2018 [15]

Grey Wolves[1]
Alperen Ocakları

Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant

Tahrir al-Sham (since 2017)[5][6]

Syria Syrian government

Syrian Democratic Forces


Syrian National Resistance (2016-17)
Commanders and leaders

Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdoğan
Turkey Binali Yıldırım
Turkey Gökhan Bedir
Ebu Bekir Muhammed Abbas
Ömer Abdullah
Alparslan Çelik
Albay Ahmed Berri
Abu Maria Al-Qahtani

Abu Mohammad al-Julani [16]

Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi
Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant Abu Ala al-Afri 
Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant Abu Ali al-Anbari 
Yunus Durmaz 
(ISIL leader in Turkey, Gaziantep)[17]
Abu Ansari[18]  
(Emir of al-Bab)
Abu Hussein al-Tunusi[19]  
(ISIL southern Raqqa field commander)
Abu Khalid Urduni[20] 
(Amir of al-Bab)

Abu Ibrahim Al-Faransi (POW)[21]
(French emir of al-Bab)
Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant Abu Ja’fr Dagestani  (ISIL emir)[22]

Syria Bashar al-Assad
Syria Maher al-Assad
Syria Ali Abdullah Ayyoub

Hediya Yousef[23]
Mansur Selum[23]
Adnan Abu Amjad[24] (Manbij Military Council & Northern Sun Battalion commander)
Anwar Khabat[25](Euphrates Liberation Brigade commander)
Talal Silo (spokesperson for the Syrian Democratic Forces) (POW)[26]

Abdulsettar Al-Cadiri (Jarabulus military council commander) [27]
685.862 servicemen
668 aircraft
31,500 - 100,000 militants

178,000 servicemen
320 aircraft

Casualties and losses
167 servicemen killed
1 F-4 shot down
TFSA 852 killed[29][30]
3,736 killed, 417 captured [31](Turkish claim)

1 pilot killed[32]
108 soldiers killed
22 captured.[33][34][35][36]
1 Mi-17 shot down
1 MiG-23 shot down
1 Mohajer-4 drone shot down
2 servicemen killed
1 SU-24 shot down
1 CSAR helicopter shot down
1 Orlan-10 drone shot down[37]

1,693+ killed (SOHR and SDF claims)[38]
1,491 killed, 53 captured (Turkish claim)[31][39]

4 killed[40]

Turkey, which had had a relatively friendly relationship with Syria over the decade prior to the start of the civil unrest in Syria in the spring of 2011, condemned the Syrian president Bashar Assad over the violent crackdown on protests in 2011[41] and later that year joined a number of other countries demanding his resignation.[42] In the beginning of the Syrian Civil War, Turkey trained defectors of the Syrian Army on its territory, and in July 2011, a group of them announced the birth of the Free Syrian Army, under the supervision of Turkish intelligence.[43] In October 2011, Turkey began sheltering the Free Syrian Army, offering the group a safe zone and a base of operations. Together with Saudi Arabia and Qatar, Turkey has also provided the rebels with arms and other military equipment. Tensions between Syria and Turkey significantly worsened after Syrian forces shot down a Turkish fighter jet in June 2012, and border clashes erupted in October 2012.[44] On 24 August 2016, the Turkish armed forces began a declared direct military intervention into Syria pursuing as targets both ISIL and the Kurdish-aligned forces in Syria.

Turkey also provided refuge for Syrian dissidents. Syrian opposition activists convened in Istanbul in May 2011 to discuss regime change,[45] and Turkey hosts the head of the Free Syrian Army, Colonel Riad al-Asaad.[46] Turkey has become increasingly hostile to the Assad government's policies and has encouraged reconciliation among dissident factions. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has been trying to "cultivate a favorable relationship with whatever government would take the place of Assad."[47] Beginning in May 2012, some Syrian opposition fighters began being armed and trained by the Turkish National Intelligence Organisation.[48]

Turkey and anti-government forces in Syria[edit]

Since 1999, when Bashar Assad's father Hafez al-Assad expelled Kurdish leader Abdullah Öcalan, relations between Syria and Turkey warmed.[49]

In the beginning of the Syrian Civil War, Turkey trained defectors of the Syrian Army on its territory, and in July 2011, a group of them announced the birth of the Free Syrian Army, under the supervision of Turkish intelligence.[43] In October 2011, Turkey began sheltering the Free Syrian Army, offering the group a safe zone and a base of operations. Together with Saudi Arabia and Qatar, Turkey has also provided the rebels with arms and other military equipment.

Al-Qaeda and the Army of Conquest[edit]

Turkey, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia have supported the Army of Conquest, a coalition of Salafist and Islamist Syrian rebel groups.[50] The coalition includes the al-Nusra Front (the Syrian affiliate of al-Qaeda) and Ahrar al-Sham, but it also included non-al-Qaeda-linked Islamist factions, such as the Sham Legion, that have received covert arms support from the United States.[51] According to The Independent, some Turkish officials admitted giving logistical and intelligence support to the command center of the coalition, but denied giving direct help to al-Nusra, while acknowledging that the group would be beneficiaries. It also reported that some rebels and officials claim that material support in the form of money and weapons to the Islamist groups was being given by Saudis with Turkey facilitating its passage.[52] Al-Ahram reported that President Obama of the United States chose not to confront Saudi Arabia and Qatar over the issue at a May 2015 meeting of the Gulf Cooperation Council, although al-Nusra and Ahrar al-Sham troops made up 90% of the troops in the Idlib region, where they were making substantial gains against the Assad government.[53]

Turkey had reportedly criticised designation of the Nusra Front as a terrorist organisation. Feridun Sinirlioğlu had reportedly told his American interlocutors that it was more important to focus on the "chaos" that Assad has created instead of groups such as al-Nusra.[54] Al-Monitor claimed in 2013 that Turkey was reconsidering its support for Nusra. Turkey's designation of the Nusra Front as a terrorist group since June 2014 was seen as an indication of it giving up on the group.[55][56] Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, Leader of the Opposition in Turkey has alleged that Erdogan and his government have supported terrorism in Syria.[57][58] In June 2014, İhsan Özkes, a parliamentarian from CHP, claimed that a directive had been signed by Turkish Interior Minister Muammer Güler, ordering the provision of support to Al-Nusra against PYD. Güler denied this claim and argued that a directive with the letterhead of the Governor's Office of Hatay could not be possibly signed by a minister, which is a direct proof of the document's inauthenticity.[59][60] Former United States Ambassador to Turkey, Francis Ricciardone claimed that Turkey had directly supported and worked with Ahrar al-Sham and al-Qaeda's wing in Syria for a period of time thinking that they could work with extremist Islamist groups and push them to become more moderate at the same time, an attempt which failed. He said that that he tried to persuade the Turkish government to close its borders to the groups, but to no avail.[61] Seymour Hersh in an article published on London Review of Books on April 17, 2014 claimed that senior US military leaders and the intelligence community were concerned about Turkey's role and stated that Erdogan was a supporter of al-Nusra Front and other Islamist rebel groups.[62]

RT reported in March 2016 that al-Nusra had pitched their camps along the Turkish border and regularly receives supply from the Turkish side near the border town of Azaz. While filming a number of vehicles coming from the Turkish side through the Bab al-Salam crossing to Azaz, the RT crew reported that Turkish military vehicles were at most a kilometre away from them. Abdu Ibrahim, head of YPG in Afrin claimed that Turkey was definitely providing support to al-Nusra. Some Syrian rebels also told RT that Turkey was providing support to ISIL and al-Nusra.[63] This claim was branded "an ugly lie" by the Turkish media and attributed to the impaired relationship between Russia and Turkey after the 2015 Russian Sukhoi Su-24 shootdown incident and to the fact that RT is a Russian state agency.[64] In October 2016, Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, the Turkish foreign minister, called on the al-Nusra Front to withdraw from Aleppo and called on other Syrian rebel groups to split from Nusra.[65]

On 5 May 2017, Mehmet Görmez, the Turkish president of religious affairs, met with Harith al-Dhari,[66] an Iraqi Sunni cleric who was designated by the Al-Qaida Sanctions Committee as an "individual associated with al-Qaeda" in 2010. Al-Dhari was reported to have "provided operational guidance, financial support, and other services to or in support of al-Qaeda in Iraq."[67]

Turkistan Islamic Party[edit]

Arab media claimed that the village of Az-Zanbaqi (الزنبقي) in Jisr al-Shughur's countryside has become a base for a massive amount of Uyghur Turkistan Islamic Party militants and their families in Syria, estimated at around 3,500. They further accused the Turkish intelligence of being involved in transporting these Uyghurs via Turkey to Syria, with the aim of using them first in Syria to help Jabhat Al-Nusra and gain combat experience fighting against the Syrian Army before sending them back to Xinjiang to fight against China if they manage to survive.[68][69] Arab news agencies reported that the Uyghurs in the Turkistan Islamic Party, the Chechens in Junud al-Sham, Jabhat al-Nusra and Ahrar al-Sham are being coordinated by Turkish intelligence to work with the Army of Conquest.[70] Turkish media agencies, on the other hand, denied this and claimed that it was a scheme of the Chinese government to promise a holy cause and new lands to Uyghur forces with Islamic tendencies, which would eventually be cited by the government as the reason for more oppressive policies towards the Uyghur people.[71] The validity of the Chinese claims had also been challenged by Sean Roberts of Georgetown University in an article on global terrorism.[72] Conversely, other reports emphasized on the Uyghur fighters' ties with ISIL, which lead to the 2017 Istanbul nightclub shooting against Turkey.[73]

Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL)[edit]

Allegations of Turkish cooperation with and support for ISIL[edit]

Ever since the formal founding of ISIL from its Islamist predecessor groups in June 2014, Turkey has faced numerous allegations of collaboration with and support for ISIL in international media.[74][75][76][77] Several of the allegations have focused on Turkish businessman and politician Berat Albayrak, who has faced calls for his prosecution in the United States.[78][79]

Turkey has, despite national and international criticism, largely refused to directly engage militants of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), despite continued threats from ISIL to pursue more operations on Turkish soil. The Turkish response to the ISIL-led Siege of Kobanî as well as a series of terrorist attacks on Turkish soil allegedly linked to ISIL perpetrators, was largely subdued apart from a series of incidents on the Turkish–Syrian border. On 23 July 2014 one Turkish sergeant was killed by fire from ISIL forces in Syria, and four Turkish tanks returned fire into ISIL held territory in Syria.[80] The following day ISIL and Turkish soldiers actively engaged in the Turkish border town of Kilis, marking a dangerous new escalation in the ties between Turkey and ISIL.[81] Turkish F-16 Fighting Falcons struck ISIL targets across the border from Kilis Province with smart bombs, the Turkish government announced.[82]

The Turkish government claimed that this was to prevent an attempted invasion by ISIL troops.[83]

On August 25, 2015 the Turkish newspaper Bugün ran a front-page story, illustrated with video stills, about what it said was the transfer, under the observation of Turkish border guards, of weapon and explosives from Turkey to ISIL through the Akcakale border post. Bugün reported that such transfers were occurring on a daily basis and had been going on for two months. In response, a couple of days later offices of Koza İpek Media Group, the owner of the newspaper, were raided by Turkish police.[84][85] In October 2015 control of Koza İpek Media Group was seized by the Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office which then appointed new managers with links to the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), and in July 2016 Bugün was closed down on the orders of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.[86][87]

In late November 2015, Turkey started tougher controls to stop ISIL militants crossing on a 60-mile stretch of the border with Syria where ISIL had control of the Syrian side. The crossing was used for smuggling and for arms transfers. This followed Russian President Putin directly accusing Turkey of aiding ISIL and al-Qaeda, and pressure from the U.S.[88]

From July 2015: Alleged ISIL terror attacks in Turkey[edit]

On 7 July 2015, reports surfaced that Turkish security forces seized a truck bound for Syria loaded with 10,000 detonators and explosive primers with total length of 290,000 metres (950,000 feet) in Akcakale, Sanliurfa province, southeastern Turkey. Five people were arrested. The detainees admitted attempts of crossing the border from the village of Aegean into Tal Abyad city in the Al-Raqqah Province.[89]

On 20 July 2015, a cultural center in Suruç was bombed by a 20-year-old male Turkish ISIL member.[90] 32 people were killed in the town of Suruç's municipal culture center in the southeastern province of Şanlıurfa, and at least 100 people were hospitalised.[91]

On 10 October 2015 at 10:04 local time (EEST) in Ankara, the capital city of Turkey, two bombs were detonated outside Ankara Central railway station. With a death toll of 103 civilians,[92] the attack surpassed the 2013 Reyhanlı bombings as the deadliest terror attack in modern Turkish history.[93] Another 500 people were injured.[94][95]

On 19 March 2016, a suicide bombing took place in Istanbul's Beyoğlu district in front of the district governor's office. The attack occurred at 10:55 (EET) at the intersection of Balo Street with İstiklal Avenue,[96] a central shopping street.[97] The attack caused at least five deaths,[98] including that of the perpetrator. 36 people were injured, including seven whose injuries were severe.[96][97] Among those injured were twelve foreign tourists.[97] Among those killed, two were of dual Israel-US nationality.[99] On 22 March, the Turkish interior minister said that the bomber had links with ISIL.[100]

On 28 June 2016, ISIL militants attacked Istanbul’s Atatürk Airport. The three suicide bombers opened fire at passengers before blowing themselves up.[101] The attacks left 45 dead and 230 wounded.[102]

From April 2016: Cross-border confrontations[edit]

Turkish artillery strikes killed over 54 ISIL militants on April 2016,[103][104][105][106] whilst 5 people were killed and 22 others were wounded by ISIL rocket projectiles hitting the border province of Kilis.[107][107][108]

The Turkish Foreign Ministry has demanded raising awareness on the Kilis to the U.S. Department of State. Turkey also demanded the deployment of High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) rocket launchers at Turkey’s Syria border. According to Turkey, such moves would push ISIL militants southwards, leaving the border province of Kilis out of battery ranges.[109]

From 3 May 2016 to 6 May rocket fire struck the Turkish city of Kilis from ISIS controlled territory with the Turkish Army responding with fire at every attack.[110][110][111][112]

On 6 May the governor’s office in Kilis released an official statement declared the province a “special security area,” effective for 15 days until 5:00 p.m. on May 20.[112]

Also, in the morning hours, the Turkish military carried out four separate air strikes against ISIL positions in northern Syria, as part of a joint effort and intelligence with the U.S.-led coalition forces. Two Katyusha rockets were fired from ISIL positions in Syria on the southeastern province of Kilis following the air strikes. Turkish armed forces responded to the attack by shelling ISIL targets with howitzers from the border.[113]

In the evening hours, reconnaissance and surveillance vehicles spotted ISIL positions in the Suran region north of Aleppo and the Baragidah and Kuşacık regions northeast of Tal el Hişn. Army shelled them. A total of 55 ISIL militants were killed in the shellings, while three vehicles and three rocket launchers belonging to the jihadist group were also destroyed.[113]

From 11–15 May a total of 55 ISIL militants were killed by Turkey and U.S.-led coalition in operations targeting positions belonging to the jihadist group in Syria, Turkish security sources have said.[114][115]

Turkey and Syria's government[edit]

Numerous incidents along the Syrian–Turkish border have taken place during the Syrian Civil War, straining the relations between the countries and resulting in dozens of civilians and military personnel killed. Syria has repreatedly urged UN Security Council action to "put an end to the crimes of the Turkish regime".[116]

Turkey and Rojava[edit]

Turkey has received the co-chair of Rojava's leading Democratic Union Party (PYD), Salih Muslim, for talks in 2013[117] and in 2014,[118] even entertaining the idea of opening a Rojava representation office in Ankara "if it's suitable with Ankara's policies.".[119] Nonwithstanding, Turkey is persistently hostile, because it feels threatened by Rojava's emergence encouraging activism for autonomy among Kurds in Turkey and the Kurdish–Turkish conflict, and in this context in particular Rojava's leading Democratic Union Party (PYD) and the People's Protection Units (YPG) militia being members of the Kurdistan Communities Union (KCK) network of organisations, which also includes both political and militant assertively Kurdish organizations in Turkey itself, including the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK). Turkey's policy towards Rojava is based on an economic blockade,[120] persistent attempts of international isolation,[121] opposition to the cooperation of the international Anti-ISIL-coalition with Rojava militias,[122] and support of Islamist Syrian Civil War parties hostile towards Rojava,[123][124] in past times even including ISIL.[125][126][127] Turkey has on several occasions also been militarily attacking Rojava territory and defence forces.[128][129][130] The latter has resulted in some of the most clearcut instances of international solidarity with Rojava.[131][132][133][134]

In the perception of much of the Turkish public, the Rojava federal project as well as U.S. support against ISIL are elements of a wider conspiracy scheme by a "mastermind" with the aim to weaken or even dismember Turkey, in order to prevent its imminent rise as a global power.[135] Opposition leader Selahattin Demirtas has argued for Turkey and other countries to recognize Rojava and work with it as a partner.[136][137]

From fall 2014: Kobanî in focus[edit]

With the Turkish government thinking that a declaration was enough, and with only a minimum of western airstrikes helping the defenders of Kobanî, ISIL troops edged closer to the city, eventually entering it from the south and east.[138] Feeling betrayed by the Turkish government and hearing that Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu's previous vow not to let Kobanî fall was in fact a lie, refugees on the border and citizens in the cities of Istanbul, Ankara, Antakya, Antalya, Eskişehir, Denizli, Kocaeli, Diyarbakır, Siirt, Batman, and elsewhere began to protest. Turkish police responded with tear gas and water cannons, and live fire in the southern province of Adana, killing protestors.[139][140]

By 7 October, ISIL militants and Kurdish defenders were fighting in the streets of Kobanî, with many dead and scores wounded on both sides.[141][142] As the battle for Kobanî continued to rage, rioting continued in Turkey, and almost 40 people were killed in street clashes by mid-October. In late October, ISIL began shelling the border post near Kobanî.[143] On 11 October, Turkish President Erdogan denounced the protests, claiming that they were attacking Turkey's "peace, stability, and environment of trust." He stated that the government was already caring for 200,000 Kurdish refugees from the Kobanî area and asked, "What does Kobanî have to do with Turkey?"[144] By mid-October, fighting had also renewed between Turkish military forces and Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) elements in southeastern Turkey.

On 29 November 2014, ISIL fighters began attacking YPG fighters in Kobanî from Turkish territory.[145] Kurdish sources in Kobane said that on November 29 ISIL fighters attacked Kobane from Turkish territory, and that the assault began with a vehicle driven by a suicide bomber coming from Turkish territory. During the attack, a group of ISIL fighters were seen atop granary silos on the Turkish side of the border.[146][147] According to the German news outlet 'Der Spiegel', ISIL fighters also attacked YPG positions near the border gate from Turkish soil.[148] According to the SOHR, YPG fighters crossed the Turkish border and attacked ISIL positions on Turkish soil, before pulling back to Syria. Soon afterwards, the Turkish Army regained control of the border crossing and silos area.[149]

On 25 June 2015, fighters from ISIL launched an attack against Kobanî, detonating three car bombs.[150] The ISIL fighters were reported to have disguised themselves as Kurdish security forces, before entering the town and shooting civilians with assault rifles and RPGs.[151][152] Over 164 people were killed and 200 injured.[151] Kurdish forces and the Syrian government claimed the vehicles had entered the city from across the border, an action denied by Turkey.[153] ISIS also committed a massacre in the village of Barkh Butan, about 20 kilometres south of Kobanî, executing at least 23 Syrian Kurds, among them women and children.[154]

Member of the Women's Protection Units (YPJ) with a standard uniform

From summer 2015: Rojava expands, Turkey becomes openly hostile[edit]

On 24 and 25 October 2015, Kurds accused the Turkish military of opening fire at its forces in Tal Abyad after the majority Arab town was included into Kobanî Canton. The Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu confirmed it, saying "we hit it twice,".[155][156] There were no casualties in the shooting and the Kurdish forces didn't return fire.[157] On October 25, Turkish forces also attacked the village of Buban. During the attack two civilians wounded.[158]

On 15 February 2016, Turkey hit again Kurdish forces in Syria. A Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman said the strikes came after a border security outpost in the Hatay area was attacked.[159] In addition, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that Turkish troops were shelling the road to the west of the town of Tal Rifaat and also the region to the west of the Syrian border town of Azaz, but failed to stop the advance of the Kurdish forces.[160] On 16 February 2016, Turkish forces continued to shell the positions of Syrian Kurds in northern Syria for the fourth day. Turkish military said that it was retaliating to fire coming from the region.[161] On 17 February 2016, in Ankara, a car bombing attack happened at night. The attack targeted a convoy of military vehicles. Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu and President Erdogan blamed a Syrian Kurdish militia fighter working with Kurdish militants inside Turkey for a suicide car bombing, and vowed retaliation in both Syria and Iraq.[162] However the Kurdistan Freedom Falcons (TAK) took responsibility for the attack and said they targeted security forces.[163]

On February 22, 2016, U.S.-Russia joint cease-fire deal announced to take effect in Syria on Feb. 27, but the “cessation of hostilities” does not include ISIL and the al-Nusra Front, the main jihadist factions. On Feb. 24, Turkish president, Erdoğan, during a speech said that “The PYD and the YPG need to be out of the scope of the cease-fire, just like Daesh (ISIL) is,”.[164] Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that Turkey would continue shelling Kurdish militants across the border in Syria, despite calls from Washington and other Western capitals to halt the attacks.[165] On 19 February Turkish artillery units shelled again PYD targets in northern Syria.[166] Opposition groups reported that over the previous few days they had brought over 2,000 reinforcements with heavy equipment from the Idlib area, through Turkey assisted by Turkish forces, to fight against Kurdish militias north of Aleppo and to support rebels in Azaz.[167] Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook said that Turkey’s shelling of YPG forces in northern Syria would be an “ongoing topic of conversation” between USA and Turkey.[168]

On 4 March 2016, the YPG militia said that Turkey′s tanks had fired dozens of shells at its positions in the area of Afrin in northwest Syria.[169] Russia’s Defense Ministry reported that Turkey continues to shell Kurdish forces in Syria, hampering their operations against Al-Nusra, and at the same time funneling supplies to the militant-controlled areas at the border.[170] The Ministry also claimed that jihadists and Turkish trucks supplying them continued to freely cross the Turkish-Syrian border.[170][171] On 6 March, jihadists shelled Turkish areas from Syrian territory in an attempt to provoke a response that could lead to Ankara sending troops into the neighboring country.[172] On 8 March, Mortar shells fired from Syria in Turkey and killed 2 civilians, the Turkish military returned fire into Syria. According to Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, Islamic State militants were responsible for the attack.[28]

From spring 2016: Manbij and international solidarity with Rojava[edit]

In December 2015, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), the newly founded umbrella for Rojava-affiliated militias, captured the Tishrin Dam and crossed the Euphrates, capturing the town of Tishrin and other nearby areas from ISIL, paving the way for a future offensive toward Manbij. In April 2016, factions of the SDF formed the Manbij Military Council.[173][174] The U.S. asked for Turkey's support for the Manbij offensive, but Turkey had two demands that were rejected, namely that the forces in the offensive should leave the secular SDF umbrella, and that the U.S. should increase its airstrikes for jihadist groups Turkey supports.[175][175][176][177] When the offensive started, the Washington Post reported it under the headline of "Ignoring Turkey, U.S. backs Kurds in drive against ISIS in Syria".[178]

During the late summer 2016 Turkish military intervention in the Syrian Civil War in Shahba region, U.S. Special Operations Forces embedded with SDF forces, to successfully deter Turkey and Turkish-backed jihadi rebels from attacking SDF forces south of the Sajur river.[132] Further, the United States Department of Defense confirmed that U.S. Special Operation Forces were flying U.S. flags in the town of Tell Abyad in Kobanî Canton to deter Turkish harassment shelling or attacks against SDF forces there.[179]

Turkey's military intervention in Syria[edit]

2014 invasion plans[edit]

On 27 March 2014 an audio tape recording of high-level Turkish officials discussing Turkey's Syria strategy was released on YouTube.[180] The officials discussed a false flag operation that would lead to an invasion of Syria. YouTube was subsequently blocked in Turkey.

A vote in the Turkish Parliament was scheduled for October 1, 2014 on whether or not to invade Syria as part of the war on ISIL.[181] while preparations for a possible invasion were made.[182] It was later delayed a day.

The de facto "declaration of war" is to take the form of two separate motions—one on Iraq and one on Syria, which would authorize Turkish troops to invade those countries.[183] the opposition said they hadn't been able to read either motion, as the exact text had been delayed.

Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç said that the gist of the resolutions was to extend the current mandate for "hot pursuit" against the PKK and Syrian Army into Syria and Iraq, which was to end the second week in October, and to add ISIS to the list and set up a buffer zone on the Syrian side of the border.[184]

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan opened the parliamentary session by saying that Turkey would fight against so called Islamic State and other "terrorist" groups in the region but it would stick to its aim of seeing Bashar al-Assad removed from power.[185]

After two days of heated debate, the motion passed 298-98,[186]

2015 invasion plans[edit]

With the governing party losing its majority in the Turkish general election on 7 June 2015, rumors began to circulate that President Erdoğan would order an invasion of Syria to prevent the creation of a Kurdish state straddling northern Syria and Iraq.[187]

On June 26, Erdogan said he would "never allow the establishment of a Kurdish state in northern Syria".[188] By the end of June, a number of Turkish newspapers reported that Ankara was considering a ground operation to establish a buffer zone in Northern Syria to prevent Syrian Kurds from declaring an independent state,[189] a zone 110 km long and 33 km deep along the Turkish border.[188]

The military demanded legal backing for such a move,[190][191] and on 29 June 2015, Erdoğan chaired a meeting of the National Security Council to provide just that.[192]

Leaked plans stated that, sometime during the first couple of weeks of July, up to 18 thousand troops would invade Syria via the Jarablus and Aazaz border crossings, areas in the hands of ISIL and the Free Syrian Army, respectively, and set up a buffer zone to which refugees could be repatriated.[193]

Limiting intervention to airstrikes has also been discussed.[194] The idea of going into Syria proved extremely unpopular with most sections of Turkish society, dissuading the government from invading.[195]

2016-17 military intervention[edit]

In the wake of the major military advances that Syrian government forces and Syrian Democratic Forces made against jihadists during the Northern Aleppo offensive (February 2016), Ankara called for a safe zone and "No-fly zone", "free from clashes", in northern Aleppo governorate.[196] The proposal did not garner any real support from Washington or NATO allies who fear it would require an internationally patrolled no-fly zone and potentially put them in direct confrontation with Assad and his allies. Only, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said, that such a "safe zone" would be "helpful in the current situation."[196] Russia with dominance over Syria's skies, came out against the idea and, also, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said: "This is not Merkel's initiative, this is a Turkish initiative." In addition, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov said that any decision to create a no-fly zone over Syria cannot be made without the approval of the government in Damascus as well as the UN Security Council.[196]

In February 2016, Turkey and Saudi Arabia were pressing for ground operations in Syria, hoping for the involvement of the U.S. and the other allies.[197] Hezbollah said Turkey and Saudi Arabia were using the Islamic State group as a "pretext" to launch a ground operation in Syria.[198]

On 22 August 2016, Turkey fired artillery at ISIS in Jarablus, and it also shelled YPG fighters north of Manbij.[199] A spokesperson for the Kurdish-Arab Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) said: “The Turkish state officially supports Daesh (ISIS) and bombs the positions of the Manbij Military Council and its countryside in the northern axis of the defense positions at Sajur River,”[200] The SDF is dominated by the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD).[201]

On 24 August 2016, the Turkish armed forces, supported by the U.S., began a declared direct military intervention into Syria.

On 24 August 2016, after 2 days of artillery bombardment[199] and airstrikes, the Turkish Land Forces launched an attack on the ISIL-held town of Jarabulus, followed by hundreds of FSA fighters.[202] They backed by planes from the U.S.-led coalition, launched their first co-ordinated offensive into Syria.[203] Turkey′s president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said on the first day of the operation, called Euphrates Shield, that it was aimed against both the ISIL and People's Protection Units (YPG), a major component of the SDF, allegedly both ″terror groups that threaten our country in northern Syria″.[204][205] The immediate goal of the invasion was the capture of the Syrian town of Jarabulus from the ISIL, which was accomplished on the first day of the operation. The SDF managed to take the town of Amarinah from the FSA after a brief firefight.[203][206][207] It was the first time Turkish warplanes have struck in Syria since November 2015, when Turkey downed the Russian warplane, and the first significant incursion by Turkish special forces since a brief operation to relocate the tomb of Suleyman Shah, in February 2015.[203]

Turkey shelled Syrian Kurdish forces in the region during all the week before the attack, determined not to let them fill the vacuum if ISIS leaves.[208]

Turkey said the operation was an act of self-defence, in response to Isis shelling of Turkish border towns and suicide bombings and attacks targeting Turkish nationals.[203] Also, the Turkish foreign minister, Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, said that YPG (Kurds) should return east of Syria's Euphrates River. Both Manbij and Jarablus are west of the river.[199]

Syrian Kurdish forces said that the Turkish operation is motivated more by the desire to stop their advance at Jarablus than by anti-IS sentiment.[209]

On 29 November, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the President of the Republic of Turkey, said that the Turkish military launched its operations in Syria to end the rule of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.[210] Days later Erdogan sought to retract his statement; media observers attributed his outburst to frustration due to failure of his government's Syria policies.[9]

2017 Idlib operation[edit]

On 7 October 2017, Turkish forces launched an operation in the northern Idlib Governorate,[211] in coordination with Russia.[212]

2018 Afrin Operation[edit]

Turkish military vehicles on the Syria–Turkey border, 16 January 2018.

On 9 January 2018, while giving a parliamentary address to his ruling AKP, president Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that Turkey will continue its military operation in Syria’s Afrin and Manbij regions.[213]

On 20 January 2018, the Turkish military began an intervention in the Afrin region of Syria, code-named by Turkey as Operation Olive Branch (Turkish: Zeytin Dalı Harekâtı).

Statements about further intentions of Turkish military action[edit]

Against the Syrian Democratic Forces[edit]

Turkish Army artillery bombard a SDF position in the northern Aleppo countryside in July 2017

The Turkish government promotes a narrative according to which the Democratic Union Party (PYD), the leading political party of the Democratic Federal System of Northern Syria, and the People's Protection Units (YPG) militia, the leading component group of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), were allegedly "seizing and ethnically cleansing territories which don't belong to Kurds." Turkish President Erdoğan on 19 September once more promoted this narrative on a press conference, claiming that "these events are what also made it a necessity for us to start this intervention."[214][215]

The United States Department of Defense on 20 September confirmed that U.S. Special Operation Forces were flying U.S. flags in the town of Tell Abyad in Kobanî Canton to deter Turkish harassment shelling or attacks.[179] On 21 September, The New York Times reported that the U.S. administration "is weighing a military plan to directly arm Syrian Kurdish fighters combating the Islamic State, a major policy shift that could speed up the offensive against the terrorist group but also sharply escalate tensions between Turkey and the United States."[216] Reacting to these reports, Turkey President Erdoğan on 23 September claimed that "arming another terrorist group for fighting another terrorist group is not acceptable."[217] Following these statements, Turkish army shelled two YPG targets in the Tell Abyad area.[218] On 25 September 2016, the U.S. spokesman for the Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve (CJTF–OIR) confirmed that the SDF, including the YPG, were also part of the "vetted forces" in the train and equip program and will be supplied with weapons. The President of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, condemned this and claimed that the SDF were "endangering our future".[219]

Turkey's Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmuş on 26 September claimed that a significant portion of YPG units within the SDF in Manbij would have started moving to the east of Euphrates river and appreciated it.[220] On 27 September, Turkey sent military units to the border region of Tell Abyad.[221] Same day Turkish FM Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu claimed that YPG units had not withdrawn from Manbij and its countryside and stated "this means USA either is not capable of influencing YPG or they do not want to influence them."[222] The Turkish government on 3 October once again claimed that fighters of YPG were still present to the west of Euphrates and called on the U.S. to hold its alleged promise that they withdraw to the east of the river.[223] The following day, Yıldırım claimed that Turkey could use force to expel YPG from Manbij.[224] As a consequence of continuing Turkish verbal aggressions, the SDF spokesman on 4 October explicitly ruled out any Turkish participation in the upcoming joint military operation of the SDF and the CJTF–OIR to capture Raqqa from ISIL.[225] Later an Obama administration official said that at this point the administration's plan to "retake Raqqa by arming the Kurds" was triggered as a plan B, after the initial plan of using Turkish forces in the Raqqa offensive became unattainable.[226]

President Erdoğan stated on 18 October that the YPG would be removed from Manbij after ISIL is driven from al-Bab.[227] In a 21 October report from Jarabulus, the Financial Times assessed Turkish aims towards the SDF and as a conclusion quoted that "Mr Erdoğan is very good at perceptions. It is not important what reality is: people [in Turkey] love hearing Mr Erdoğan’s ambitions on the eight o’clock news when they come home."[228] On 25 October, Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu stated that Turkey would dislodge "PYD/PKK" from Manbij if it did not leave the city.[229] On 26 October 2016, president Erdoğan said: “We are determined to clear the PYD from Manbij.”[230][231] On 27 October 2016, Erdoğan said he told U.S. President Barack Obama that Free Syrian Army labeled rebels would advance on ISIL-held Al-Bab and then march on to SDF-held Manbij and then toward ISIL-capital Raqqa.[232] On 11 November, Erdoğan stated the goal and roadmap of the intervention as "expanding the controlled area to cover 5,000 square kilometres (1,900 sq mi) including Bab, Manbij and Tell Rifaat, creating a national structure and army for this expanded area to provide solid control and to allow the refugees return to these areas jointly with EU, and after these, focusing on IS's de facto capital Raqqa and PYD."[233] On 22 November 2016, Erdoğan said with respect to Manbij that "we want the place to be totally emptied of the PYD and YPG."[234]

Acting U.S. Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs, Elissa Slotkin, on 16 January 2017 said the only target for the US-led coalition is ISIL, and not the city of Manbij that has been cleared from ISIL by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). "We are all about hitting ISIS where there is ISIS. If there’s no ISIS, that’s not our mandate. So that is an important distinction. We have always made it in any kind of conversation we’ve been having with any ally on Syria."[235] On 27 January 2017, after the multilateral peace talks in Astana, the President of the Republic of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, said that "we should not go deeper than Al-Bab" and Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu stated that "there are different opinions about YPG and Hezbollah. So an agreement can not be reached about struggle against them".[236] The Germany Defence Ministry on 31 January ruled out giving Turkey unfiltered access to imagery gathered by Tornado fighter jets operating out of Incirlik air base in southern Turkey as part of the Anti-ISIL coalition, out of concern that Turkey might abuse the high-resolution aerial imagery for military action against the SDF.[237]

On 24 April 2017, the Turkish Air Force conducted several airstrikes on YPG and YPJ positions near al-Malikiyah, killing at least 20 fighters.[238]

Against the Syrian government[edit]

On 29 November 2016, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the President of the Republic of Turkey, said that the Turkish military launched its operations in Syria "to end the rule of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad".[210] Days later, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan sought to retract his statement; media observers attributed his comment to frustration "due to failure of his government's Syria policies".[9] In an interview with the state-run Syrian Arab News Agency on 8 December, Syria President Bashar Assad challenged Erdoğan's mental sanity.[239] On 20 January 2017, the Deputy Prime Minister of Turkey, Mehmet Şimşek, said that "we can't say that Assad must go anymore. A deal without Assad isn't realistic."[240]

On 9 January 2017, Turkey summoned Russian and Iranian ambassadors to express its disturbance over ongoing military operations of the Syrian Army in the Idlib Governorate.[241]

Against Iraq[edit]

On 1 November 2016, the day Iraqi forces entered Mosul in the Battle of Mosul (2016–17) against ISIL, Turkey announced it was sending tanks and artillery from Ankara to Silopi near the Iraqi border. Turkey's Minister of Defense Fikri Işık said the deployment was a move to "prepare for "important developments" in the region and stated that "further action can be taken if Turkey's red lines are crossed".[242][243][244] Iraqi Prime Minister Al-Abadi warned Turkey not to invade Iraq, predicting war if they did. Al-Abadi, addressing journalists in Baghdad, said, "We warn Turkey if they want to enter Iraq, they will end up becoming fragmented... We do not want to fight Turkey. We do not want a confrontation with Turkey. God forbid, even if we engage in war with them, the Turks will pay a heavy price. They will be damaged. Yes, we too will be damaged, but whenever a country fights a neighboring country, there will be no winner, both will end up losing."[245]

On 5 April 2017, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan suggested that future stages of the – recently proclaimed concluded – Euphrates Shield Operation would be broader, suggesting that Turkey would also seek to occupy territory of Iraq. Erdogan said that "a future operation will have not [only] a Syrian dimension, [but] also an Iraqi dimension. There are the Tal Afar and Sinjar situations [in Iraq]. We also have kin in Mosul."[246]

Turkey and other external state actors[edit]

United States[edit]

Incirlik Air Base[edit]

On October 13, 2014 Turkey denied the United States to use Incirlik Air Base for attacking ISIS militants in Syria.[247] The US has been frustrated that its efforts to build an international coalition to tackle ISIS forces from the air have been partly hobbled by the difficulty of getting Turkey engaged.[248] Later, on July 23, 2015 after long negotiations with USA, Turkey has agreed to allow U.S. planes to launch air strikes against Islamic State militants. The U.S. officials declined to give details of the agreement with Turkey.[249] On February 25, 2016, Saudi Arabian war planes began arriving at the base as part of an anti-Isis build-up being deployed over Syria. The Saudi deployment added to US, German and British aircraft already using the base.[250][251][252]

On April 2 and 3, 2016, the families of U.S. troops and civilian personnel stationed at İncirlik Air Base left the base after an order by the Pentagon and the U.S. State Department to leave several areas of Turkey for their security.[253]

On August 2016, four Danish F-16 fighter jets have entered combat in Syria for the first time, hitting targets in Raqqa. The four jets, which have been stationed at the İncirlik airbase since June 17, 2016, have been flying surveillance and reconnaissance missions over Syria with combat missions limited to Iraq until then.[254]

United States role in Syrian Civil War[edit]

In May 2016 Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu was very angry because of some photos which showed US special forces in Syria wearing insignia of Kurdish militia (patch of the YPJ), during joint operations against Islamic State (IS). He called the US "two-faced" and said the practice was "unacceptable". Pentagon press secretary Peter Cook said it is common for US soldiers to attempt to blend in with local partners.[255]

According to Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, Turkey has proposed to USA a detailed plan for joint military operation against jihadists inside Syria with the Americans and other allied troops. But U.S. officials denied it and said that Turkey had not offered a detailed plan but only a few basic concepts which involved joint efforts only to support non-Kurdish forces.[256]

Russian Federation[edit]

The Turco-Russian confrontation took place between Turkey and, initially, the Syrian government which turned into a military crisis between Turkey and Russia after the November 2015 shoot-down of a Russian Air Force Su-24 by the Turkish Air Force after an alleged airspace violation. Increased Russian military intervention on behalf the Syrian Government and hostile Turkish territorial responses have all contributed to increasing escalation. Aerial confrontations between two nations have grown more common. Turkey accuses Russian Forces of violating Turkish sovereign airspace and war crimes against Syrian Turkmens.[257] The Russian military has accused Turkey of illegal economic ties with ISIS and planning a military intervention in Syria.[258][259][260][261]

On 22 February 2016, U.S. and Russia announced a deal for a truce to take effect in Syria on 27 February, referred to as “cessation of hostilities”. On 24 February, Turkish president, Erdoğan, during a speech said that “The PYD and the YPG need to be out of the scope of the cease-fire, just like Daesh (ISIL) is.”[164]

On February 25, Turkish prime minister Ahmet Davutoğlu said that Turkey would not comply with the truce: "This deal is not binding for us when a party is of threat to Turkey, when Turkey’s security is at stake".[262]

November 2015 Turkish shootdown of Russian Su-24[edit]

Turkish F-16s shoot down a Russian Su-24 operating in Northern Latakia. Both occupants ejected successfully. The pilot was shot and killed by Syrian Turkmen rebel ground fire while descending by parachute.[263] The weapon systems officer was rescued two days later.[264] A Russian naval infantryman from the search-and-rescue team launched to retrieve the two airmen was also killed when a rescue helicopter was shot down by the rebels.

Turkey and Russia–Syria–Iran–Iraq coalition[edit]

On December 2015, Turkey rejected to join the anti-ISIL quartet of Syria, Iran, Iraq and Russia. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said that he rejected it due to the presence of Syria's president Bashar al-Assad.[265]

During an International Syria Support Group (ISSG) meeting in Vienna on May 17, 2016, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu told his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov that if Moscow has any evidence that shows Turkey helping the ISIL then he would resign.[266]

Russian General Staff Lt. Gen. Sergey Rudskoy told journalists that Al-Nusra Front is receiving daily arms shipments across the border from Turkey and that Al-Nusra Front remains a major destabilizing factor in Syria. He also added that Al-Nusra Front often attack the Syrian Government forces despite the cease-fire and that the attacks are confirmed by other nations as well.[267]

On 13 March, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Russia has evidence of Turkey's "creeping expansion" in northern Syria. He accused Turkey of fortifying positions hundreds of metres from the border, inside Syria and also sending its military across the Syrian border for Operation Against Kurds and to prevent Kurdish groups there from consolidating their positions.[268][269] Turkey denied the Russian claims.[270]

On 18 March, Russia's UN Ambassador Vitaly Churkin sent a letter to the UN Security Council saying that three Turkish humanitarian organizations (NGOs) sent weapons and supplies to extremists in Syria on behalf of Turkey's MIT intelligence agency. The three NGOs were the Besar Foundation, the Iyilikder Foundation and the Foundation for Human Rights and Freedoms (IHH).[271][272]

Russo-Turkish regularization of diplomatic ties[edit]

On 26 June 2016 Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan writes Russian President Vladimir Putin to offer condolences to the family of the deceased Russian pilot of the Sukhoi Su-24 warplane shot down last November. The Kremlin has insisted on a personal apology for months. A Turkish spokesman says this is a step toward improving bilateral relations between the two countries.[12]

On 1 July 2016, Turkish and Russian foreign ministers said that the two countries will “coordinate” their policies over Syria.[273]

On 14 July 2016, Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım has said that al-Assad must go before any change in Turkey’s stance regarding Syria. He added that between al-Assad or ISIL, Turkey cannot choose either of them and that the main reason things have come to this point is because of al-Assad.[274]


Satellite images confirmed that the first Syrian camps appeared in Turkey in July 2011, shortly after the towns of Deraa, Homs and Hama were besieged.[275] By June 2013, Turkey has accepted 400,000 Syrian refugees, half of whom are spread around a dozen camps placed under the direct authority of the Turkish Government.[276] In 2014, the number swelled over a million, as some 200-300,000 Syrian Kurds streamed into Turkey in September alone, upon the Siege of Kobane.

The population of Syrian refugees in Turkey has 30 percent in 22 government-run camps near the Syrian-Turkish border.[277] The rest do their best to make ends meet in communities across the country.

Turkey has accepted over 2.7 million Syrian refugees since the beginning of the Syrian Civil War.[278] Turkey has accommodated most of its Syrian refugees in tent cities administered by the country's emergency management agency.[279]

Related criticism of Turkey[edit]

Criticism of Turkish support for jihadists, including ISIL, and of targeting Kurds[edit]

Turkey has been accused of supporting or colluding with ISIL, especially by Syrian Kurds.[280][281] Syrian Kurds and the Turkey's main Kurdish party, HDP, accused Turkey of allowing ISIL soldiers to cross its border and attack the Kurdish town of Kobanî. They also claimed that Islamic State snipers were hiding among grain depots on the Turkish side of the border and firing on the town.[282][283] In addition. the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that the vehicle which is used in a car bombing attack at Kobanî had come from Turkey.[283] According to journalist Patrick Cockburn, there is "strong evidence for a degree of collaboration" between the Turkish intelligence services and ISIL, although the "exact nature of the relationship ... remains cloudy".[284] David L. Phillips of Columbia University's Institute for the Study of Human Rights, who compiled a list of allegations and claims accusing Turkey of assisting ISIL, writes that these allegations "range from military cooperation and weapons transfers to logistical support, financial assistance, and the provision of medical services".[285] Several ISIL fighters and commanders have claimed Turkey supports ISIL.[286][287][288] A former ISIS member mentioned that the ISIS groups were essentially given free rein by Turkey's army. He said: "ISIS commanders told us to fear nothing at all because there was full cooperation with the Turks,". "ISIS saw the Turkish army as its ally especially when it came to attacking the Kurds in Syria."[289] Within Turkey itself, ISIL is believed to have caused increasing political polarisation between secularists and Islamists.[290] A video taken in October 2014 shows Turkish soldiers fraternising with Isis fighters near Kobane.[291] Turkish security forces dispersed Kurds who had gathered at the Turkish border with Syria to cross into Syria and fight with Kurdish militants against ISIS.[292] Oliver North tweeted a photograph which he claimed that it shows a Turkish soldier talking friendly with an ISIS anti-aircraft unit.[293]

In addition, Kurds accuse Turkey of using the US-led coalition against IS as a cover to attack the Kurdish PKK in both Turkey and Iraq, and now against the YPG in northern Syria. The Kurds say that Turkey 's bombardment of their positions is helping IS to attack Kurdish-held frontline areas in Syria and Iraq. IS militants attacked Syrian Kurdish villages south of Kobane a day after Turkey began shelling the YPG.[294]

Also, authorities in Turkey have confirmed social media reports that an injured ISIL commander is being treated in a Denizli hospital, saying the militant has every right to receive medical care as he is a Turkish citizen.[295]

Turkey has been further criticized for allowing individuals from outside the region to enter its territory and join ISIL in Syria.[296][297] With many Islamist fighters passing through Turkey to fight in Syria, Turkey has been accused of becoming a transit country for such fighters and has been labeled the "Gateway to Jihad".[298] Turkish border patrol officers are reported to have deliberately overlooked those entering Syria upon the payment of a small bribe.[298] A report by Sky News exposed documents showing that passports of foreign Islamists wanting to join ISIL by crossing into Syria had been stamped by the Turkish government.[299] American website Al-Monitor stated in June 2014 that Turkey, during the Syrian Civil War, by "ignoring its own border security", had allowed its Syrian border to become a "jihadist highway" for ISIL to let thousands of international jihadists, and other supplies, reach Syria.[300][301] British newspaper The Guardian stated that Turkey late 2014 "for many months did little to stop foreign recruits crossing its border to Isis".[302] An ISIL commander stated that "most of the fighters who joined us in the beginning of the war came via Turkey, and so did our equipment and supplies",[288] adding that ISIL fighters received treatment in Turkish hospitals.[288] After the 2015 attacks at Paris, President Barack Obama administration told the Turkish government to close its borders to ISIS fighters. A USA senior official said in the Wall Street Journal "The game has changed. Enough is enough. The border needs to be sealed,” “This is an international threat, and it’s coming out of Syria and it’s coming through Turkish territory.”.[303]

Turkey has openly supported jihadi groups, such as Ahrar ash-Sham, which espouses much of al-Qaida’s ideology, and Jabhat al-Nusra, which is proscribed as a terror organisation by much of the US and Europe.[304]

Turkey reported that between 1957 and 1998, Turkish forces laid 615,419 antipersonnel mines along the Syrian border “to prevent illegal border crossings,” These mines are killing Syrians stuck on the border or trying to cross near Kobani. Turkey is required under the Mine Ban Treaty, to destroy all antipersonnel mines, but has missed deadlines. Human Rights Watch claims in its report that as of November 18 over 2,000 civilians were still in the Tel Shair corridor section of the mine belt due to the fact that Turkey had been refusing entry for cars or livestock, and the refugees did not want to leave behind their belongings.[305]

Russia told that for a long time has been aware of oil going from Syria under the control of terrorists to Turkey. The money finances terrorist groups. Vladimir Putin said that “IS has big money, hundreds of millions or even billions of dollars, from selling oil. In addition they are protected by the military of an entire nation. One can understand why they are acting so boldly and blatantly. Why they kill people in such atrocious ways. Why they commit terrorist acts across the world, including in the heart of Europe,”.[306] Also, Western intelligence officials said that they can track the ISIS oil shipments as they move across Iraq and into Turkey’s southern border regions.[307] The Obama administration was struggling to cut off the millions of dollars in oil revenue that has made the ISIS, but they were unable to persuade Turkey.[307] In addition, the former Iraqi member of Parliament Mowaffak al-Rubaie has accused Turkey of turning a blind eye to the black market ISIS oil trade. He said that there is “no shadow of a doubt” that the Turkish government knows about the oil smuggling operations. “The merchants, the businessmen [are buying oil] in the black market in Turkey under the noses – under the auspices if you like – of the Turkish intelligence agency and the Turkish security apparatus.”[308] In June 2014, a member of Turkey's parliamentary opposition, Ali Edibogluan, claimed that IS had smuggled $800 million worth of oil into Turkey from Syria and Iraq.[309] Sadik Al Hiseni, the head of the security committee in the city of Diyala in Iraq, says they have arrested several Turkish tankers trying to take ISIS oil out of the province of Salahuddin.[310]

Vladimir Putin, also, accused the Turkish government that it is purposely leading the country toward Islamization.[311] Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said “Turkey’s actions are de facto protection of Islamic State,” Medvedev said, calling the group formerly known as ISIS by its new name. “This is no surprise, considering the information we have about direct financial interest of some Turkish officials relating to the supply of oil products refined by plants controlled by ISIS.”[312]

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said that most of the oil produced in Islamic State-held territory in Iraq and Syria was being smuggled through Turkey.[313] He also mentioned that he sees no evidence that Turkey wants to fight ISIS.[314] In addition he told that Turkey wants to revive the Ottoman Empire.[314]

Sadi Pria, a top Iraqi Kurdish official in Irbil said: "Turkey shamelessly and openly backs IS and al-Qaeda terrorists against Kurdish freedom fighters,".[315]

Israel's defence minister, Moshe Ya'alon, has accused Turkey of buying oil from the ISIS and funds ISIS militants. He, also, said that Turkey had "permitted jihadists to move from Europe to Syria and Iraq and back".[316]

The Director of National Intelligence, James R. Clapper, said that he was not optimistic that Turkey would do more in the fight against the Islamic State. “I think Turkey has other priorities and other interests.” He also cited public opinion polls in Turkey that show Turks do not see the Islamic State as a primary threat.[317]

Vice President of USA, Joe Biden, during a speech at Harvard accused Turkey and the Gulf countries of funding, supplying and supporting ISIL.[318] Donald Trump and the Minister of Defense of Armenia, Seyran Ohanyan, accused Turkey of supporting ISIS.[319][320]

A senior Jordanian security official accused Turkey of training ISIS fighters.[321] The King of Jordan, Abdullah, said that the Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, “believes in a radical Islamic solution to the problems in the region” and the “fact that terrorists are going to Europe is part of Turkish policy, and Turkey keeps getting a slap on the hand, but they get off the hook”.[322]

Egypt has accused Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of being a supporter of terrorists who seek to "provoke chaos" in the Middle East.[323] Also, an Egyptian security official said that Turkey is providing direct support to ISIS and that Turkish intelligence is passing satellite imagery and other data to ISIS.[324] Egypt, also, claimed that Turkey provided more than 10,000 passports to ISIS members to facilitate travel of its fighters across the region. Egypt official further charged that Istanbul is serving as the “headquarters” for ISIS planning.[325]

Cypriot Foreign Minister Ioannis Kasoulidis, questioned Turkey’s determination to fight ISIS.[326]

Eren Erdem, member of the main opposition at Turkey, CHP, accused the Turkish Government that it failed to investigate Turkish supply routes used to provide ISIL with toxic Sarin gas ingredients.[327] Because of this statement, he faces treason charges at Turkey.[328]

Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, warned the Turkish government not to provide money and training to terror groups. He said, "It isn't right for armed groups to be trained on Turkish soil. You bring foreign fighters to Turkey, put money in their pockets, guns in their hands, and you ask them to kill Muslims in Syria. We told them to stop helping ISIS."[329] He, also, said after the 2015 Ankara bombings that the Turkish Government is "protecting" the ISIL and that "the police department knows all", “the only reason for not having security measures taken or for not having them [suspects] detained is the absence of an instruction from the political authority to fulfill whatever was required. That’s to say, its [the political authority’s] protection of ISIL. This is not an observation, I’m saying this very openly and clearly,”.[330] At 16 February 2016, Kılıçdaroğlu has repeated accusations that the Turkish government has sent arms to jihadist groups in Syria and built jihadist training camp in Turkey.[331]

Russian anti-drug chief mentioned that ISIS is using Turkey for trafficking heroin to Europe. He, also, believes that ISIS makes about $1 billion from Afghan heroin trade.[332][333]

Turkey's state intelligence agency, MIT, has been accused that it helped deliver arms to parts of Syria under Islamist rebel control.[334] Turkish journalists who exposed it have charged with spying and “divulging state secrets” from the Turkish court.[335][336] One of the journalists claimed:"Those who sent the convoy from Turkey knew that the weapons were “heading to end [up] in ISIS hands".[336] Also, Turkish officers, who intercepted some of the intelligence agency’s weapons-filled trucks have faced spying charges.[336] In addition, Turkish newspaper, Cumhuriyet, published a video footage which it said showed security forces discovering weapons parts being sent to Syria on trucks belonging to the MIT state intelligence agency.[337]

Syria's president Bashar al-Assad during an interview at 2015 mentioned that military and logistic support from Turkey was the key factor in ISIL takeover of Idlib (2015 Idlib offensive), he also blamed Turkey for the failure of a humanitarian ceasefire plan in Aleppo. He told that: "The Turks told the factions - the terrorists that they support and they supervise - to refuse to cooperate with de Mistura".[338]

Syria's antiquities chief has accused Turkey of refusing to return looted objects from ancient heritage sites in Syria or to provide information about them.[339] Also, Turkey have been accused that she lets ISIL smuggles Syrian antiquities through her.[340]

In an official letter to UN, the Russian envoy Vitaly Churkin stated that antiquities from Syria and Iraq are exported to Turkey. The main center for the smuggling of cultural heritage items is the Turkish city of Gaziantep, where the stolen goods are sold at illegal auctions. According to the envoy, new smuggling hubs are popping up on the Turkish-Syrian border, with the “bulky goods” being delivered by the Turkish transport companies. Smuggled artifacts then arrive in the Turkish cities of Izmir, Mersin and Antalya, where representatives of international criminal groups produce fake documents on the origin of the antiquities.[341]

According to Gatestone Institute, Norddeutscher Rundfunk (NDR) and Südwestrundfunk (SWR) ISIS was selling women and children in Turkey. Also, Consortium of Public Broadcasters in Germany (ARD) produced a footage documenting the slave trade being conducted by the Islamic State (ISIS) in Turkey. After these reports the Gaziantep Bar Association filed a criminal complaint against "Turkey's National Intelligence Organization (MIT) and law-enforcement officers that have committed neglect of duty and misconduct by not taking required measures, and not carrying out preventive and required intelligence activities before the media covered the said incidents.".[342]

Iran accused Turkey that she is the main culprits in supporting the terrorist movements of ISIL.[343]

Katrin Kunert, a German Parliamentarian from the Green Party leaked a classified document which showed that Turkey was delivering arms to Syrian rebel groups.[344]

On July, 2016, a leaked confidential report produced by the German Interior Ministry accused Turkey of supporting terrorist groups across the Middle East including various Islamist groups fighting in Syria.[345] The report showed that Germany sees Turkey as platform for Islamist groups in the Middle East.[346]

Hezbollah Chief, Hassan Nasrallah, accused Turkey and Qatar for supporting ISIS.[347]

Hamas, justified the killing of Muath Al-Kasasbeh and said that Jordan should have adopted a similar position with Turkey and not fight ISIS. “IS members are, in one way or another, considered Muslims and we must not stand with the enemies of Allah against the people of Allah (the IS).” "It (Jordan) should have adopted a similar position to Turkey.”[348][349][350]

A US-led raid, at which the ISIS official responsible for oil smuggling Abu Sayyaf was killed, produced evidence that Turkish officials directly dealt with ranking ISIS members. Senior Western official familiar with the captured intelligence told the Observer that “There are hundreds of flash drives and documents that were seized there,”. “They are being analysed at the moment, but the links are already so clear that they could end up having profound policy implications for the relationship between us and Ankara.”[304]

Serena Shim, a journalist of Press TV was killed at a car crash with a heavy vehicle in Turkey in what are claimed, by her employer and her parents, to be suspicious circumstances. The car crash happened just days after she claimed that the Turkey's state intelligence agency, MIT, had threatened her and accused her of spying, due to some of the stories she had covered about Turkey’s stance on ISIL militants in Kobane. She also claimed that she had received images of ISIL militants crossing the Turkish border into Syria in World Food Organization and other NGOs trucks.[351][352][353][354]

At January 2016, The Guardian obtained documents which show that ISIL ran a sophisticated immigration operation through the Syrian border town of Tell Abyad with Turkey until its defeat by Kurds. The border crossing remained open until Kurdish forces took control of the town (Tell Abyad offensive), at which point Turkey promptly sealed it. David Phillips, an academic at Columbia University and author of two recent research papers into links between Turkey and ISIS, alleges that the country “knows the movements of all persons and can control the flow across the border if it chooses”. He said there was “a steady stream of vehicles, individuals, weapons, financing, oil going back and forth”, adding: “It’s not like people are putting on their hiking boots and crossing over rough terrain. There’s an extensive surface transport network which is highly regulated and controlled ... on both sides of the border.”. Academic researcher Aymenn al-Tamimi, an expert on examining Isis documents, said he had no doubt about the authenticity of the manifests. “The documents ... coincide with other documents illustrating daily bus routes within Islamic State territory. Though private companies provide the actual transportation, the Islamic State bureaucracy is responsible for authorising and overseeing the routes,” he said. A senior Turkish government official, in response to the Guardian’s claims, said that Turkey was doing everything it could to stop the influx of foreign fighters, including cracking down on recruitment and logistic networks such as travel agents mentioned in the documents.[355]

Anonymous launched Cyber-attacks on Turkey after accusing it of supporting ISIS by buying oil from them and treating their wounded in hospital. They have also told that they will continue the attacks as long as Turkey is supporting ISIS.[356]

Columbia University assigned a team of researchers in the United States, Europe, and Turkey to examine Turkish and international media assessing the credibility of allegations and published a research paper entitled "ISIS-Turkey Links". The report draws on a variety of international sources and present many allegations that appeared in the media.[329]

In an email to The Guardian, Noam Chomsky accused Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of hypocrisy. He said: “Turkey blamed Isis (for the attack on Istanbul at 2016), which Erdoğan has been aiding in many ways, while also supporting the al-Nusra Front, which is hardly different."[357]

Jacques Behnan Hindo, the Syrian Catholic Archbishop of Hasakeh-Nisibi, accused Turkey of preventing Christians from fleeing Syria while allowing jihadists to cross its border unchecked. He said on the Vatican Radio, "In the north, Turkey allows through lorries, Daesh (ISIS) fighters, oil stolen from Syria, wheat and cotton: all of these can cross the border but nobody (from the Christian community) can pass over.". He claimed it a day after ISIL abducted more than 90 Assyrian Christians from villages.[358][359]

Transcripts of telephone calls between IS jihadists and Turkish officers has been revealed.[360][361]

Members of the Democratic Union Party (Kurds) accused the Turkish military of opening fire at its forces in Tal Abyad after the majority Arab town was included into a Kurdish enclave after fights with ISIS soldiers. The Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu confirmed it and he said that Turkey had warned the PYD not to cross to the "west of the Euphrates and that we would hit it the moment it did. "We hit it twice,".[155]

Turkey, at January 2016, didn't allow Kurdish groups from northern Syria to take part in peace talks in Geneva. Turkish PM said that the participation of YPG represents a 'direct threat' to his country.[362]

On February 2016, US urged Turkey to stop the shelling of the Kurds and focus on fighting the ISIL.[363]

On February 2016, Syria and the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights accused Turkey of allowing Islamist fighters to travel through Turkish territory to reinforce Islamist rebels in Azaz and Tal Rifaat.[116]

On February 2016, Hezbollah said Turkey and Saudi Arabia were using the Islamic State group as a "pretext" to launch a ground operation in Syria, after Turkey's suggestion to the U.S. and other allies in an international coalition against the Islamic State group for ground operations in Syria.[198]

On 10 February 2016, Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin sent a letter to the UN Security Council. He said in the letter that recruiters from ISIL had reportedly established a network in the Turkish city of Antalya for foreign fighters from the former Soviet Union. He also said in the letter that, in September, a group of 1,000 IS fighters from Europe and Central Asia were taken from Turkey to Syria through the border crossing at Gaziantep. In addition, he claimed that in early 2015, Turkish intelligence services reportedly helped move ethnic Tatars who were fighting for the Al-Qaeda aligned Nusra Front from Antalya to Eskişehir and, also, that it was helping to fly ISIL militants from Syria through Turkey to Yemen using Turkish military air transport, or by sea to Yemen's port of Aden.[364]

On 17 February 2016, at least 500 armed fighters crossed the Turkish border heading for the Syrian town of Azaz to fight against the Kurdish forces according to the head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.[365]

After the February 2016 Ankara bombing the head of the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) denied any involvement and said that Turkey is using this attack as a "pretext" to intervene in Syria.[366]

The Syrian branch of the Turkistan Islamic Party uses the Turkish Postal Service and Turkish banks to solicit donations via the organization "Türkistan İslam Derneği" through the website "Doğu Türkistan Bulenti".[367]

Criticism of maltreatment of refugees and of other humanitarian misconduct[edit]

According to Amnesty International, Turkish guards routinely shoot at Syrian refugees stranded at the border,[368] also, Turkey has forcibly returned thousands of Syrian refugees to war zone since mid-January 2016.[369]

On May 10, 2016, Human Rights Watch said Turkish border guards were shooting and beating Syrian refugees trying to reach Turkey, resulting in deaths and serious injuries.[370] Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan denied it.[370]

On May 18, 2016, lawmakers from the European Parliament’s Subcommittee on Human Rights (DROI) have said that Turkey should not use Syrian refugees as a bribe for the process of visa liberalization for Turkish citizens inside the European Union.[371]

Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and National Coalition of Syrian Revolution and Opposition Forces stated that 8 or 11[372] Syrians refugees were killed by Turkish security forces on the night of June 18, 2016, as they attempted to cross the border into Turkey. The Turkish Foreign Ministry denied the claims.[372][373]

Turkish journalist Arzu Yildiz was sentenced to 20 months in jail and lost her parental rights after exposing a video related to a weapons-smuggling scandal denied by the Turkish government, in what her lawyer said was “an act of revenge” by Recep Tayyip Erdogan.[374]

See also[edit]


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