After threatening military incursions into northeast Syria to keep Kurdish forces at bay, Turkey has negotiated a “safe zone” in northern Syria.
Turkey’s involvement in the ongoing Syrian civil war is just one reason the border between the two countries is one of the most dangerous in the world. Millions of refugees fleeing the brutal regime of Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad and extremist groups like the Islamic State have fled the conflict, which has turned into a proxy war between Turkey, Russia, Iran, Israel, and the US.
Even before the Syrian civil war, Turkey and its southern neighbor, Syria, had a tense relationship, due in part to the presence in Syria of Kurdish groups affiliated with Kurdistan Workers’ Party (KPP) — which Turkey and the US consider a terrorist organization. The Kurdish militia are a crucial part of the US-led coaliation that defeated ISIS in Syria.
The Kurdish Institute of Paris estimates that about 12.2 million Kurds live in Turkey. Turkish authorities banned the Kurdish language, dress, and customs, leading to uprisings by the Kurdish people living in Turkey, and the formation of the PKK. The leader of the PKK, Abdullah Öcalan, has been imprisoned in Turkey since 1999, according to CNN.
The US says it has reached a deal with Turkey and will create a “safe zone” in northern Syria, The New York Times reported last week. Turkey will get its buffer against Kurdish forces in Syria, the US will try to prevent direct conflict, and Syrian refugees living in Turkey will be more easily pushed back into Syria, where destruction and danger awaits them.
As a potential new conflict looms, with Turkey threatening to invade northern Syria, life on the border is more unruly and dangerous than ever. Read on for more insight about what life is like on the border.