🔴 Controversy hits as journalist makes veiled claim that Turkey is preparing to accept 500,000 displaced Palestinians and resettle them in Turkish-controlled areas of Syria.https://t.co/lOOQFfNPAe pic.twitter.com/hneQ1nlv9J
— MedyaNews (@1MedyaNews) October 17, 2023
Turkey is preparing to accept Palestinians displaced by Israel, possibly with the aim of resettling them in formerly Kurdish-majority areas under its control in northern Syria, according to a Turkish journalist.
On 15 October, Nedim Türkmen, a columnist for the nationalist secularist Turkish opposition newspaper Sözcü, made a veiled claim suggesting Turkey is preparing to accept Palestinians displaced by Israel. “Based on what I’ve heard in Ankara, preparations are underway to accept 500,000 Palestinians into Turkey. I’ve also heard that preparations are being made in Ankara and S…, in our south,” Türkmen said. Notably, he hesitated and refrained from completing the word “Syria,” opting instead for the vague term “our south,” before being suddenly interrupted by the show’s moderator, Serap Belovacıklı, who chose not to seek clarification but to abruptly change the topic. Turkey shares a long border with Syria to its south.
This comes against the backdrop of Turkey’s military operations in northern Syria, which have been ongoing since 2018 and intensified after a 2019 operation. These military activities have been particularly focused on cities that had so far been under Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) control such as Afrin (Efrin), Ras al-Ain (Serêkaniyê), and Tell Abyad (Girê Spî).
According to a detailed report by the North Press Agency, Turkey’s military actions have led to the displacement of the original Kurdish inhabitants and their replacement with nationalist Arabs. This is part of a broader strategy to change the demographic composition of these cities, a policy corroborated by reports from local human rights organisations such as the Ceasefire Centre for Civilian Rights and Amnesty International. The North Press Agency report goes on to state that Turkey’s current actions surpass previous initiatives like the Arab Belt and Eastern Reform projects in both scope and permanence. The Arab Belt was a 1970s Syrian policy aimed at Arabizing Kurdish regions along the Turkey-Syria border, while Eastern Reform refers to various historical efforts to change demographic or administrative structures in eastern regions.
Turkey has been placing Syrian refugees in settlement projects within cities under its control in northern Syria. Türkmen’s claim takes on added significance when considered alongside these reports, which amplify concerns about the long-term impact of Turkey’s military operations on the ethnic and cultural fabric of northern Syria.