Turkey and Syria’s Safe Zone: Building a Refugee Wall on the Border

Submitted by Mohammed Sami on Tue, 10/01/2019 - 14:31

Uncertainty overshadows the future of the Turkey-US ‘safe-zone’ plan in northern Syria. Delineating the plan, which departs from the premise of pushing the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) away from the Turkish border, has been a topic of debate between the two states.[1] While there appears to be an understanding between the stakeholders on building a safe zone, contentious interactions continue to unfold regarding the safe-zone’s details. Turkey, on various occasions, has expressed its discontent from US interludes and has promised to take unliteral actions if the US fails to deliver its commitments on the agreement.[2] 


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“Turkey is not a country to be stalled” stated Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in the course of actions held at the United Nations General Assembly.[3] President Erdogan claims that the safe-zone paves a way for settling around two million of the 3.6 million Syrians currently present in Turkey.[4] To deliver these numbers, Turkish officials disclosed to their US counterparts a $26.6 billion project that attempts to establish new facts on ground.[5] This is done through constructing 10 district centers and 140 villages that provide housing for 30,000, and 5,000 inhabitants each, respectively.[6] These constructions are to be accompanied by certain facilities such as mosques, schools, youth centers and indoor sports halls,[7] in an attempt to forge a smooth settlement for Syrians in Turkey.


Turkey’s approach to northern Syria is putting the region’s societal texture at jeopardy. Not only will the previously mentioned project eventually trigger a hazardous demographic shift as Arab families would replace Kurdish ones, but it will also build a refugee wall that separates Turkey from the SDF, distancing the former from the Kurdish community in northern Syria. Yet as Turkey continues to exploit the Syrians to entrench a future transition that pours into its favor, the Syrian government remains absent from the scene as its responses don’t go beyond condemnations.[8]