BURAK BEKDİL > Wanted: Syrian people

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I shivered with the thought of a future conflict between “friendly and brotherly” Turkey and Egypt when I read the news announcing that their naval forces of had successfully completed joint military exercises in the Mediterranean Sea, which the New York Times viewed as “the latest sign of warming ties between the two former rivals” and a potential “significant geopolitical shift in the Middle East.”

The last time Turkey showed similar signs of warming ties and held joint military drills signifying geopolitical change was with Syria.

Gone, also, are the days when Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was greeted as a “rock star” in Lebanon, or, at least in words, a figure of fraternity in Iran. I recall a Lebanese friend telling me in Lisbon that “Israel-bashing was an easy sell on the Arab Street, but that is until other realities become better sells.” That was when Mr. Erdoğan’s rock star career was at its peak. Then came “other realities.” Nowadays, crowds gather in front of the Turkish Embassy in Beirut, but not to cheer for Mr. Erdoğan. Instead, they are protesting Turkey.

According to the findings of a survey, “The Perception of Turkey in the Middle East,” conducted by the Turkish Economic and Social Studies Foundation (TESEV) and the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung foundation, Turkey’s popularity on the Arab Street fell to 69 percent this year from 78 percent in 2011 (based on interviews with 2,800 people in 16 countries).

A year and a half after start of the Syrian Spring, the entire world is still struggling to identify who the Syrian people really are. They are, according to the neo-Ottoman Turks, the Syrian National Council (SNC). In the spring after the Syrian Spring, Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu - and what this column called the “ironic Friends of Syria” - declared the SNC to be the sole representative of the Syrian people. As we are half a year away from the second spring after the original Syrian Spring, the biggest friend among Friends of Syria, the United States, has changed course. Recently, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said “the SNC cannot anymore be considered as the leader of the opposition.” Does Mr. Davutoğlu have any idea why his American counterpart has disowned a troupe he himself so heartily owns?

The Friends of Syria will now be looking for the “Syrian people” at a new gathering in Doha, instead of Ankara or Istanbul. Is it not amazing that the world’s greatest powers, now joined in by the soon-to-become superpower Turkey, cannot identify a group of over 20 million people?

The TESEV study can give a hint about where such a populous group may be hiding from the attention of the international community. According to that survey, 66 percent of Middle Easterners polled believe: a) Turkey has made a positive contribution to peace in the Middle East, and b) Turkey should play a bigger role in the region.

However, that ratio was a much tinier 39 percent in Syria. Should that number not have been much higher if the Syrian people were the Syrian people Ankara and the ironic Friends of Syria claim are the Syrian people? Why did the pro-government media jump on this research as substantial evidence of Turkey’s growing regional clout, but preferred to ignore one particular finding mentioning a puzzling “39 percent?”

Apparently, from a Turkish point of view, the real Syrian people are that 39 percent. But what about the 61 percent? Who are they? Terrorists disguised as Syrians? Bolivians? Martians? Who are the Syrians? Those who kill in the name of a brutal dictator, or those who kill in the name of Sunni supremacy?

We outsiders are finding it increasingly difficult to locate you, dear Syrian people. Will you please stand up and make yourselves visible?


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11/9/2012 9:37:24 AM

Blue Dotterel, you know very well what is happening and why it is happening in Syria. You are objective and moderate. Only wilfully blind would oppose your point of view.

Blue Dotterel

11/8/2012 8:43:58 PM

I just saw the "opposition's" version of the Syrian flag. It is the flag of the French Mandate. Now, if that doesn't tell you who is running this show, and you still think this is a Syrian revolution, then there is no hope for you. This is an attack on the Syrian people by its foreign enemies in NATO and the GCC. Only the willfully blind would believe otherwise.

Blue Dotterel

11/8/2012 6:26:28 PM

Mara, just leave. It would be nice if the US completely left Iraq and dismantled its CIA fort in the center of Baghdad, too. The US cannot solve the problems in the ME because it is the problem. The US, EU and Israel are working very hard to destabilize Iran - Stop. Iran is doing nothing illegal, and is more democratic the most of the countries in the ME that the US supports. As far as Syria is concerns, the US is still meddling in Syrian politics, literally admitting so. Stop! Get Out!

mara mcglothin

11/8/2012 4:16:30 PM

BLUE Once again what exactly would you suggest? These people will continue to fight no matter who is in charge or who is "appointed". USA is long gone from Iraq, so what is there excuse. Everyone said once we left everything would be a paradise, so what happened? and what would you suggest?

Blue Dotterel

11/7/2012 10:12:54 PM

The SNC is out of favor with empire at this time. The empire now intends to appoint a successor that is "more representative" of the "Syrian people". Well, it worked fine in Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen and Libya, didn't it? The US and its Western satraps appoint democracy in the ME. How nice, but for who?

mara mcglothin

11/7/2012 8:31:46 PM

BMEDIC Thanks for your insight. I have spoken with quite a few Syrians in passing, BUT you know what they say-there are at least two sides to every story and the truth is always somewhere in between. I am also extremely skeptical because nothing ever is how it appears.

Disconnect 25

11/7/2012 5:27:04 PM

Please don't blame only Turkey for the Syrian crisis. Iran is more involved than Turkey inside Syria's sectarian clashes.

B Medic

11/7/2012 4:43:23 PM

@mara. Correct, but the conflict is mainly ethnic-religious. Hafez Assad let the Sunnis be responsible for most business life in Syria. His own group, Alawis were mainly responsible for politics and military. But 10-15 years ago, leading Alawis close to the regime started to demand power over business too. The Sunnis lost a lot of influence and money, they became very unhappy and they have been behind most of the protests that started last year.

mara mcglothin

11/7/2012 3:42:57 PM

BMEDIC You are probably right to some extent but you also probably forgot to mention the group of people who have made money off the Assad regime for years, and don't want to give up a good thing. I am sure that those people are from all ethnic/religious groups. In the ME and Turkey as well, it still is not so much what you believe but who you know. I do believe that there will be fighting for many years to come among the afore mentioned groups.

Turk down under

11/7/2012 2:44:03 PM

@dogan- Re BB's Erdogan and Daavutoglu criticisms . The two mentioned gentlemen keep on giving miles and miles and more miles of material for BB to criticize. How could he resist ! :) Burak bey a witty piece as usual
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