Turkey erect wall along border frontier with Syria
(13 November 2013)
The Turkish authorities have begun erecting a wall separating the border frontier towns of Nusaybin in south-eastern Turkey, and Al Qamishli in north-eastern Syria, causing a major divide of the Kurdish population. Reports from the region suggest that construction of the wall has been stopped amidst protests, but it is unclear if the halt in construction is permanent.
The towns are currently separated by a belt of no-man’s land surrounded by ribbons of barbed wire fencing. Turkish authorities have justified the two metre high wall as needed “for security reasons,” including sheltering residents from landmines, preventing smuggling, and tightening checkpoints to interdict illegal crossings.
Ayse Gökkan, the Nusaybin mayor questions the Turkish government’s security-based explanations for the wall: “Why do they not build walls further west, where rebel fighters and Al-Qaeda are allowed to cross the border freely?” Turkish Kurds suggest that the underlying motive is a desire to divide Syrian Kurds (who are believed to receive support from the Turkish government in their efforts to destabilise the Assad regime) from Turkey’s own Kurdish minority.
Regardless of the Turkish government’s geopolitical motivations, the region’s Kurdish population has protested that the wall will impede their community from strengthening across the frontier zone, with many residents having family members either side of the divide.
Widespread protests and opposition have met preparatory work for the wall’s construction, with Ayse Gökkan taking part in a hunger strike. Bahattin Ozbek, a Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) mayoral candidate, protested “We want to unite with our ethnic kin and get rid of this border”.
“Turkish police fire tear gas at demonstration over wall construction on Syrian border”, The Washington Post, 1st November 2013. http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/middle_east/turkish-police-fire-tear-gas-at-demonstration-over-wall-construction-on-syrian-border/2013/11/01/901fd88e-4307-11e3-b028-de922d7a3f47_story.html.
“Kurds protest against wall along Turkey’s border with Syria”, Darren Butler, Reuters, 7th November 2013. http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/11/07/us-syria-crisis-turkey-kurds-idUSBRE9A610720131107.
“Turkey’s new border wall angers Kurds on both sides of Syrian divide”, Constanze Letsch, The Guardian, 8th November 2013. http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/nov/08/turkey-new-border-wall-kurds-syria.