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Syrian opposition sidelining Turkmens, community leader says

ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily News | 8/24/2011 12:00:00 AM | İPEK YEZDANİ - ipek.yezdani@hurriyet.com.tr

Turkmens in Syria have been sidelined by the opposition groups who recently formed a national council to represent the uprising.

Turkmens in Syria have been sidelined by the opposition groups who recently formed a national council to represent the uprising in the Arab republic, community representatives have said while also criticizing Turkey for neglecting their plight.

Turkmens have been suppressed by the regime of President of Bashar al-Assad for many years, yet they were not invited to recent opposition meetings in Istanbul, said Ali Öztürkmen, a representative of the community, adding that he could only attend as an “observer” because they became aware of the meetings at the last minute.

Although official numbers indicate there are between 900,000 and 1.5 million Turkmens in Syria, Öztürkmen said there were actually close to 3 million Turkmens in Syria as many of them, like a large number of Syrian Kurds, had been deprived of citizenship by the Syrian regime.

“The Turkish government is also not showing any interest in Turkmens in Syria,” he said.

Refuting the claims, a Turkish Foreign Ministry official said the Turkish government had always showed interest in all its kin and living outside Turkey.

The official said the government’s first priority was the integration of these groups in the society in which they live; in cases like Syria, however, the priority is to seek the rights of these groups if there is evidence that they have been treated unjustly, the official added.

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