Stephen Starr is an Irish journalist who lived in Syria from 2007 to 2012. He is the author of Revolt in Syria: Eye-Witness to the Uprising (Oxford University Press: 2012).

  • Have Turkey’s security failings turned a corner?, On: Sun, 25 Jun 2017

  • Islamic State has more in common with the West than we think , On: Sun, 18 Jun 2017

  • Ethics of survival rule the day in Syria, On: Sun, 21 May 2017

  • Turkey’s influence grows but Damascus lies in the long grass , On: Sun, 30 Apr 2017

  • Questions about Erdogan’s future path at home and abroad , On: Sun, 23 Apr 2017

  • Patriarchy still holds Arab women back, On: Sun, 12 Mar 2017

  • The war in Syria is essentially over , On: Sun, 12 Feb 2017

  • Wadi Barada siege shows Damascenes’ contempt for countryside , On: Sun, 29 Jan 2017

  • Assad retaking Syria would be an unbridled catastrophe , On: Sun, 11 Dec 2016

  • Middle East problems will still need local solutions , On: Sun, 20 Nov 2016

  • Post Palmyra, where is the real power in Damascus? , On: Fri, 01 Apr 2016

  • A cantonised, post-war Syria, best chance for peace, On: Fri, 25 Mar 2016

  • Kurdish problem runs generations deep, On: Fri, 18 Mar 2016

  • Russia sees ‘strategic’ value in Syria, not regime , On: Fri, 18 Mar 2016

  • Refugee problem endures in Europe, On: Fri, 26 Feb 2016

  • Turkey playing realpolitik with refugees, On: Fri, 12 Feb 2016

  • Syria talks doomed before they start? , On: Fri, 29 Jan 2016

  • Other tragedies lurk after Madaya , On: Fri, 15 Jan 2016

  • Has Turkey gone too far with Russia?, On: Fri, 08 Jan 2016

  • Murals of Homs , On: Fri, 18 Dec 2015

  • The European roots to today’s jihadism, On: Fri, 04 Dec 2015

  • Damascus now plays bit-part role in Syria conflict, On: Fri, 23 Oct 2015

  • Islamic State closes in on Damascus , On: Fri, 04 Sep 2015

  • Syrians are on their own , On: Fri, 28 Aug 2015

  • UN agencies are actively hurting Palestinians, On: Fri, 31 Jul 2015

  • For Syrians, truth and reconciliation must start today , On: Fri, 17 Jul 2015

  • The war will go on for Syria – and Turkey, On: Fri, 10 Jul 2015

  • Turkey’s AKP facing a watershed moment, On: Fri, 12 Jun 2015

  • The future of Syria , On: Fri, 22 May 2015

  • Have Iran and its proxies decided they can afford to drop the Assad regime? , On: Fri, 15 May 2015

  • Beyond the Gallipoli centenary, On: Fri, 08 May 2015

  • Battles of Idlib and Yarmouk not the last challenges for Assad, On: Fri, 24 Apr 2015

  • Have Turkey’s security failings turned a corner?

    Turkey is undeniably a more authoritarian state than 12 months or two years ago.

    Squeezed by the police state. A boy passes under a police fence at the Sur historical district in Diyarbakir, on June 14. (AFP)


    2017/06/25 Issue: 112 Page: 14



    Not so long ago headlines depicted Turkey as a country buffeted by terrorist attacks and political unrest but Turkey may have turned a corner in its fight against terrorism that has seen hundreds of civilians and police officers killed in attacks.

    Over the past several months and as recently as this month, dozens of Islamic State (ISIS) cells in Istanbul and elsewhere in the country have been broken up. Crucial intelligence has been recovered. The border with Syria, once an open door for anyone who wished to pass through, has never been as secure. Major attacks, such as those seen in Istanbul, Ankara and Gaziantep, have all but vanished.

    Many will say this has come too little, too late. Attacks on activ­ists in Suruc and Ankara in July and October 2015, at Ataturk airport last summer and at the Reina nightclub on New Year’s Eve have shaken the country and damaged Turkey’s economy. Some claim that Ankara’s backing of Syrian rebel groups in 2012 and 2013, groups that in the years since have advocated a more extreme world view, allowed terrorists to covertly move across the border to Syria. Slack border monitoring several years ago allowed hundreds of civilians to flee Syrian government air strikes and killings. It also, however, allowed radicalised young men to return to their homes around Tur­key from where they carried out many of the above-mentioned atrocities.

    The past six months have seen the violence, which marked 2016 as a year that reached the depths of unrest, dry up. The ongoing conflict with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) continues to take the lives of soldiers and, occasionally civilians, almost every day. Devastating and tragic as that is, it is happening in isolated and often rural districts of the south-east, not in major centres of commerce and tourism as was the case last year.

    With international visits to the country way up on 2016’s num­bers and new economic deals with Russia and Israel in the works, the signs suggest that Turkey may have gotten over its security dilemmas.

    Much of that may be down to the success of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. In April, a referendum to change the constitution enacting a presidential system of governance passed by a narrow margin, emboldening the presi­dent and his backers. Recently in Turkey, when the president’s authority has been challenged, as it was when the AKP lost its parliamentary majority in the June 2015 election, enemies real and perceived have been dealt with mercilessly.

    Last July’s failed coup also allowed the government to go to war against any and all threats. The result has been the near-total elimination of independent and opposition elements — and relative peace.

    The European Union and broader international community may be scathing in their criticism of the erosion of civil rights under the AKP in recent years but for many Turks the decline in attacks and safer streets is more impor­tant than Turkey’s stop-start EU accession negotiations. There are thousands of state employees without jobs and more than 100 journalists imprisoned but the economy continues to grow and financial credit remains easily accessible for many.

    Turkey is undeniably a more authoritarian state today than it was 12 months or two years ago. Perhaps that is the price it must pay for the sins of its policies in Syria and for living in such a volatile neighbourhood.

    However, with tourists trickling back into the country and the Turkish lira’s slide against international currencies slowed, there is a feeling that Turkey, further under the grip of a single man, is a little more stable.

    Perhaps that tells us that Turkey’s democratic experiment under the AKP has failed but in a country racked by decades of instability and low-level conflict throughout the 1970s, ‘80s and ‘90s, this recent calm is wel­comed by many, whatever the long-term consequences it may have for the country’s democratic aspirations.

    Editors' Picks

    The Arab Weekly Newspaper reaches Western & Arabic audience that are influential as well as being affluent.

    From Europe to the Middle East,and North America, The Arab Weekly talks to opinion formers and influential figures, providing insight and comment on national, international and regional news through the focus of Arabic countries and community.

    Published by Al Arab Publishing House

    Publisher and Group Executive Editor: Haitham El-Zobaidi, PhD

    Editor-in-Chief: Oussama Romdhani

    Deputy Editor-in-Chief: Dalal Saoud

    Senior Editor: John Hendel

    Chief Copy Editors: Jonathan Hemming and Richard Pretorius

    Analysis Section Editor: Ed Blanche

    Opinion Section Editor: Claude Salhani

    East/West Section Editor: Mark Habeeb

    Levant Section Editor: Jamal J. Halaby

    Gulf Section Editor: Mohammed Alkhereiji

    Society and Travel Sections Editor: Samar Kadi

    Senior Correspondents:

    Mahmud el-Shafey (London)

    Lamine Ghanmi (Tunis)

    Correspondents

    Saad Guerraoui (Casablanca)

    Dunia El-Zobeidi (London)

    Roua Khlifi (Tunis)

    Rasha Elass - Thomas Seibert (Washington)

    Published by Al Arab Publishing House

    Contact editor at:editor@thearabweekly.com

    Subscription & Advertising: Ads@alarab.co.uk

    Tel 020 3667 7249

    Mohamed Al Mufti

    Marketing & Advertising Manager

    Tel (Main) +44 20 6702 3999

    Direct: +44 20 8742 9262

    www.alarab.co.uk

    Al Arab Publishing House

    Kensington Centre

    177-179 Hammersmith Road

    London W6 8BS , UK

    Tel: (+44) 20 7602 3999

    Fax: (+44) 20 7602 8778

    Follow Us
    © The Arab Weekly, All rights reserved