A survey released by Gallup shows that more than half of the locals back Turkey's offensive in northern Syria while expressing willingness to live under Turkish rule
Locals in northern Syria have been demonstrating support for Turkish military operations, as post-operation developments have increased the normalization process – showing signs of stability and hope for the first time in years, for many. According to a survey released by Gallup, 57% of locals are in support of the Turkish operation. The largest segment of support draws from the local Arab community, the survey shows, at 64% approval, while Kurds in the region back the offensive by around 23%. The survey, conducted with data collected from 601 respondees over the age of 18, took place between the dates of Oct. 13-25 across the provinces of Raqqa and Hasakah. The survey also reveals that 55% of locals believe that Turkey has a “positive influence” in the region, a percentage high above that of other actors in the region, including the U.S. coalition and Russia. In light of the survey, Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said on Monday that support for the operation, despite currently standing at around 57%, is constantly increasing across the region.
“The numbers that we have gathered so far shows that more than 150,000 locals have returned to their hometowns and continue to return,” he told the Anadolu Agency's Editor's Desk, observing that peace and stability had returned to the region with such a high degree that the previously displaced locals felt secure enough to go back. Underlining that the clearing of IEDs and other explosives left by terrorists was still ongoing, Akar stated that the Turkish military was doing all it could to return life back to normal in the region. On Oct. 9 Turkey launched Operation Peace Spring to eliminate the PKK-affiliated People’s Protection Units (YPG) terrorists from the area east of the Euphrates River in northern Syria in order to secure Turkey's borders, aid in the safe return of Syrian refugees and ensure Syria's territorial integrity.
Following the liberation of these areas, efforts to clear bombs and improvised explosive devices were launched and administration duties were given to local councils. According to U.N. figures, 60% of the people who had been displaced due to the war have returned to their homes. Turkish humanitarian aid groups and institutions provided help for over 30,000 people so far. Turkey's operation also did not hinder the humanitarian aid of other countries and more than 80% of U.N. aid for Syria has crossed through Turkey. Those who conducted the survey stated it was no surprise to see overwhelming support for the Turkish military offensive, since “public opinion has consistently shown that Turkey is considered the only country with a positive influence on affairs inside Syria.” They said the figures emphasized that many living in Raqqa and Hasaqah are willing to live under Turkish control having previously been “envious of [Turkey’s] relative prosperity” as “a strong nation that can stand up to Assad.” “We have been offering assistance to both churches and mosques in the region. We have provided, and continue to provide, all the support we can to allow Muslims to attend Friday prayers and Christians to attend Sunday church services,” Akar said, reporting that Christians were suffering discrimination in the liberated areas. Reminding press members that churches had been used as military bases by the YPG, Akar said that places of worship had been restored and were functioning as places of worship once more thanks to efforts by the Turkish military. He added that local people also pledged support to the Turkish military operation across public media. In response to rumors that locals were being forced to convert and that the Turkish military had been using chemical weapons during the operation, Akar stressed that such accusations were a result of terrorists having been left with nothing to do but invent slanders and lies against Turkish forces to circulate in the media.
Turkey is dealing with a power supply problem in a recently liberated area in northern Syria, which struck since the YPG was forced out during the operation, the Defense Ministry said Sunday. Having largely cleared northern Syrian territories of YPG influence, the Turkish army has accelerated efforts to ensure stability in the region by meeting the basic needs of war-weary locals, including those in rural areas outside Tal Abyad. According to a ministry statement, progress is being made to solve power-related problems. “Repairs began on Nov. 22 on the Mabruka Electricity Transformer Station, which feeds the south of the M4 highway and the Operation Peace Spring area,” said the statement. “Following repairs, the provision of electricity from the Tishrin Dam to the Operation Peace Spring area was established through meetings with Russian military officials in Ayn Isa. In this respect, electricity was provided to the Tal Abyad countryside. Work is also ongoing to provide electricity to Tal Abyad center and the Ras al-Ayn region.” The area’s water supply problems have also been largely solved. The Allouk Water Reservoir that feeds Ras al-Ayn, Darbasiyah and Hasakah, was fully restored and measures were taken to ensure it is at its full operational capacity, said the ministry. Turkey protects its borders Turkey will continue to protect its rights and interests in the face of regional instability and the failure of allies to display solidarity with the country against terrorist organizations, Akar further said on the operation. "When Turkey tries to protect its rights and interests in NATO, the bloc should not consider this attitude as conflictual. The YPG is no different from the PKK and it is out of the question for Turkey to ignore this fact," Akar said. Underscoring the critical role Turkey plays in the alliance, Akar said the country's southern borders are representing the southern borders of the entire bloc, and so by protecting its borders, Turkey is playing an active role in protecting the security of NATO countries and Europe. Akar reiterated Turkey's concern regarding the YPG saying that the two groups were one and the same. "The YPG is a terrorist organization and the whole world will recognize this," he said. “NATO is stronger and more meaningful with Turkey. It is meaningless to question Turkey,” Akar indicated. Underlining that the problems caused by plans over Poland and the Baltic had not been caused by Turkey, Akar said that initially it had been acknowledged by NATO that the YPG was a wing of the PKK. However, he said, in 2017, when it came to Turkey’s defense plans, the organization simply denied the fact that the YPG was a terrorist group, which is what led to the recent crisis. “We were thus prevented from publishing our plans. So, as a response, we said that if our plan was not going to be published since the plans in both north and south should be formed conjointly, then both plans should be published at the same time. This is our claim,” the defense minister said, underlining that this is not an obstacle for NATO. Akar also said that by accepting the Baltic plan, Turkey made no concessions, since talks with NATO General-Secretary Stoltenberg ensured that both plans would be published at the same time eventually. He emphasized that Turkey's acceptance of the Baltic plan in no way entailed the abandonment of its claims regarding the YPG's status as a terrorist organization. “The YPG is a terrorist group inseparable from the PKK. There is no way we will give up on or change our stance on this issue,” Akar said. Turkey has repeatedly voiced that what happens across its southern border, which is also NATO's border, concerns Europe and all other members as well, emphasizing that terrorism, conflict and migration threaten the stability of all NATO countries. A member of the bloc since 1952, Turkey boasts NATO's second-largest army after the U.S. It is also currently one of the countries that contributes the most to NATO missions and operations using advanced technology on land, at sea, and in the air. Akar stated that Turkey was exercising its right to self-defense in the face of YPG aggression on both the group's eastern and western fronts, while the country had taken almost complete control of an area that is 145-kilometer wide, 30-kilometer deep into Syria as part of Operation Peace Spring. With the Operation Peace Spring, Turkey aimed to preserve the territorial integrity of Syria, Turkish vice president also said on Monday. "More than 4,000 square-kilometer [1,544-mile] area has been cleared from the terrorists [in the northern Syria]," Fuat Oktay told the lawmakers during his 2020 budget speech in the Turkish parliament. With the Operation Peace Spring, Turkey also aimed to reduce its security concerns, Oktay noted, adding that Turkey also aimed to preserve the territorial integrity of Syria with the operation. "Turkey's fight against terrorism in the Operation Peace Spring region will continue until the terror in the area is completely removed," Oktay stated. No terrorist corridor allowed Akar underlined that for years, Turkey had stated that it would not allow a terrorist corridor on its southern border, a stance which was eventually enabled through the country’s offensives in the region as well as through agreements made with Russia, U.S., ensuring stability. Akar said that the U.S. had made efforts to clear the area of YPG terrorists upon agreement with Turkey, saying that the NATO ally had kept its promise for the most part. Akar also gave credit to Russia for its work helping clear the region of terrorists as they confirmed 34,000 YPG terrorists had withdrawn from the area so far. Still, according to the defense minister, the area still not completely cleared from the terrorist elements, despite the good intentions and efforts of all participating forces. “We are exercising our right to self-defense in the face of gunfire coming from across the border, and this has led to a reduction in the number of such incidents,” he expressed. As part of two separate deals with the U.S. and Russia, Turkey paused the operation to allow the withdrawal of YPG terrorists from the planned northern Syria safe zone. The deal with Moscow, reached on Oct. 22, specified that security forces from Turkey and Russia would mount joint patrols in the area within 30 kilometers south of Turkey's border. Kurds, Turks brothers Pointing to the high degree of misinformation circulating on social media regarding the offensive, Akar said that one of the main issues was the claim that Turkey was causing "massacres" of Kurds: “There is absolutely no such a thing. Kurds are our brothers. We have been living with our Kurdish brothers for thousands of years,” he said, adding that the only target of Turkey was the terrorists, namely members of the YPG, PKK and Daesh terrorist groups. “The YPG cannot represent Kurds under any circumstances. I would like to underline this specifically. The Western media especially understands 'Kurds' every time we talk about the YPG. This is a major perception problem,” he expressed. Regarding speculations centered around the Syrian National Army (SNA) working with Turkey, meanwhile, Akar said that none of them reflected reality. “The SNA is not a terrorist group, they are not gangsters,” he said, underlining that they had done their best to defeat the terrorists in the region, fighting side by side with the Turkish military in ana attempt to save their territories from the terrorist invasion. If claims arose accusing some SNA members of committing crimes in the region, Akar said, there would be legal investigations on the issue, as is the standard practice in all modern armed forces. “On this subject, the SNA took a step to form military courts in Tal Abyad and Ras al-Ayn where the complaints will be discussed and findings will be reached,” he added. The SNA is the reconfigured and even broader version of the Free Syrian Army (FSA), which was Turkey's partner in the field during the previous two cross-border operations of the country in northern Syria, Operation Euphrates Shield and Operation Olive Branch. Founded in 2011 by former officers from the Syrian Armed Forces who opposed the use of violence by the Syrian regime, the FSA was a military network that consists of many Arab, Turkmen and Kurdish subgroups and ultimately aims to bring down the Syrian regime. The rebranding of the opposition forces' army was announced on Oct. 4. The army adopted the name SNA, which is basically composed of the FSA or National Army forces along with groups affiliated with the National Liberation Front. The organizational scheme of the original FSA, however, was maintained within the SNA. The aim of the SNA is to combine various opposition groups to operate under one command within a regular, professional army. It also aims to clear the terrorist elements from Syria and provide order in the liberated areas to turn the province into an area that displaced refugees can return to safely. Recalling that Turkey had carried a heavy burden when it came to refugees, Akar said that when it comes to taking concrete steps on this issue, unfortunately, progress from the international community was being made slowly in terms of financing and in humanitarian operations. Turkey is currently hosting over 3.7 million Syrian refugees. So far, 370,000 Syrians have returned voluntarily to the areas liberated by Turkey's anti-terror efforts while it is expected that this number will rise once the physical infrastructure in Syria is ensured. According to Turkey's safe zone plan, 140 villages and 10 district centers will be established within a 30-40 kilometer deep safe zone in northern Syria, housing 5,000 and 30,000 inhabitants each, respectively. The settlements will be provided with various facilities so that the people living there will be able to have a normal life with every necessity met. Each village within the area will have 1,000 houses, and each district will have 6,000 new homes built, making 200,000 new residences in total. The construction is expected to cost about $26.6 billion.