The political scene is heating up as the June 7 general elections approach. Parties mostly place emphasis on their economic promises to persuade voters. Among the election promises, there are points that aren't – thankfully –emphasized much, but worry every sane person.
"We will send 2 million Syrians back to their country…" "You can provide $5.5 billion to 2 million Syrians but do not have enough money for retired people…" "My people will appease their hunger first. My people will be employed first. They will receive a recompense for their work."
Those words belong to the main opposition Republican People's Party's (CHP) Chairman Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, who defines himself as a social democrat, and who is a member of Socialist International. Kılıçdaroğlu has made around 2 million Syrian and Iraqi refugees in Turkey a part of his election propaganda. He probably thinks that the Syrian refugees residing in camps and cities of Turkey disturb Turkish citizens economically, sociologically and psychologically. To convert this disturbance into votes, he persistently underlines the case of the Syrian refugees. He promises to resolve this "problem" by sending the refugees back to their countries. He issues various statements implying that $5.5 billion spent for Syrian refugees is financed by Turkish citizens and Syrians have started to work in Turkey, so they take the jobs of Turkish citizens. The phrase "My people will appease their hunger first" is also used within this scope.
This is not an ethical attitude regardless of which angle you look at it from. The civil war is ongoing on the other side of the border. Some 1.8 million Syrians and 200,000 Iraqis sought asylum in Turkey to escape from the chaos in their homelands. Some 20,000 of them are Yazidis, 40,000 are Turkmens, and 180,000 are Kurds. These people headed to Turkey to flee from both Bashar Assad and the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS). They saw Turkey as a safe port to take shelter in. Children are still being killed in Syria. Kindergartens are struck by barrel bombs. The terror of ISIS is ongoing in Iraq. Lately, some 300 Yazidis were killed by ISIS.
Telling those people to "go home" in such a situation, mentioning the aid provided to them and then resorting to expressions that incite xenophobia is not appropriate rhetoric. It is a dishonorable stain on the record of a member of Socialist International. Such remarks are also the examples of irresponsibility since they target refugees. There is no difference between sending Syrian refugees back to their homes and leaving the refugees trying to reach Europe to die in the Mediterranean.
For Syria, it is also essential to note changing the balances of the civil war. The opposition has started to make gains against Assad. The northern city of Idlib and several other locations were seized by opponents. The changing psychology in the field has led to questions in the Western media about whether Assad's reign is coming to an end. The causes of this change are being questioned. The developments are also being closely observed by Ankara.
The opposition's recent psychological superiority can be explained by a few factors. The military and civilian wings of opponents negotiated and ensured coordination for the first time. The effect of this coordination is felt in the field. Moreover, since Iran, whose influence has expanded to Yemen, has begun to be seen as a regional threat, the Saudi administration seems to be leaving aside its phobia of "Muslim Brothers." It is said that Assad's regime is exhausted and has difficulty finding soldiers and ammunition after years of fighting. The oppression of Iran and Hezbollah forces on Assad's army and the inner conflicts can also be counted among the reasons. Lastly, it should also be underlined that the operations conducted by the coalition against ISIS undermined ISIS, which opened up the space for the opposition.
New steps that would further this shifting psychological condition in Syria can be taken in the following days. Opposition leader Khaled Khoja paid a visit to Washington last week, which is significant in this sense. Safety zones to protect civilians in Syria were negotiated in Washington. Also, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu stated that the train-equip project designed by the U.S. and Turkey for opponents is to be kicked off in the coming days. Although not explicitly referred to, Çavuşoğlu also implied that safety zones can be brought to the agenda. "Safety zones" and "no-fly zones" that will be established in Syria can completely change the progress of the civil war.