Future of Syria policy as Turkey marks 96th Republic Day

Future of Syria policy as Turkey marks 96th Republic Day

Yesterday, Turkey celebrated the 96th anniversary of the founding of the Republic of Turkey in full joy and enthusiasm with the participation of huge crowds in widespread events across the country held by municipalities and various civil society organizations apart from formal receptions and celebrations.

Celebrations in Istanbul and Ankara began a day before Oct. 29 as the newly elected main oppositional mayors, Ekrem İmamoğlu and Mansur Yavaş, have obviously wanted to make a difference in highlighting the nation’s most important day.

Tens of thousands of people attended public events as well as concerts by popular singers in major cities, marking one of the greatest civilian celebrations of the Oct. 29 Republic Day.

As Turkey is nearing its centennial in 2023, there is a growing concentration and sensitivity among the public opinion in the protection of the republican values since the declaration of the modern Turkish republic by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk and his comrades in arms.

For a very long time since 1923, the Republic Day on Oct. 29, Victory Day on Aug. 30, Youth Day on May 19 and Children Fest on April 23 have been primarily celebrated through formal events with less or limited civilian participation. All these state-sponsored celebrations with cliché statements by the politicians were making these days less colorful and cheerful. In the last decade and especially in recent years, there is a visible change.

All these national days attract more and more people every passing year with a deeper understanding of what all these values mean and how these values could be upgraded in line with today’s conditions.

Here is an example: This year’s Republic Day comes as the Turkish army has carried out its third cross-border operation into Syria intending to clear its southern borders of YPG terrorists.

The fight against separatist terrorism is an issue on which a very good majority of the Turkish people support the government as the country has long been suffering from the PKK and its affiliations.

Therefore, Operation Peace Spring has been backed eventually by almost all political parties, except for the People’s Democratic Party (HDP), by the civil society and in general terms by the public opinion. This was done as an embrace of a republican value that calls for the protection of the full sovereignty of Turkey.

However, those who have supported the government’s military intervention have at the same time questioned the foreign policy conducted by the ruling party in the last period particularly on Syria.

For many, the question of what Turkey wants to do in Syria has no meaningful answer. Turkey is among the countries that have dearly suffered from the eight-year-long civil war in its southern neighbor and some of the policies the Justice and Development Party (AKP) governments have pursued did just lead to deepening the instability there.

Turkey is still struggling with political, security, social and economic consequences of its visionless and irrational policies regarding Syria.
A reference to Atatürk’s motto “Peace at home, peace in the world” is much louder expressed by political parties and prominent people in Turkey with suggestions on a comprehensive change on the Syria policy.

The public opinion shares the government’s concerns that Turkey’s borders should be protected from the terrorists, but this can perfectly be done with the cooperation of the Syrian government. There is a strong pressure on the government to start a dialogue with Damascus, and it does not mean that President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan would shake hands with President Bashar al-Assad.

Perhaps, a recent agreement between Turkey and Russia will pave the way for mediated talks between Ankara and Damascus which would provide a safer and long-term avenue for keeping Turkish borders intact.