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Posts Tagged ‘diasporas

[BRIEF NOTE] On the Turkmen of Syria, Turkey, Russia, and ongoing complexities

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Friend of the blog Jussi Jalonen recently noted on Facebook that the Turkish shootdown of a Russian Sukhoi Su-24 on the Turkish-Syrian border, the pilots successfully escaping in parachutes only to be shot dead by Syrian Turkmen Brigades in Syria, underlines the complexities.

The Syrian Turkmen are a substantial ethnic minority, apparently concentrated near the Turkish border, amounting to the hundreds of thousands. How many hundreds of thousands? Might it even be millions? There’s no firm data, it seems, much as there is no firm data on the numbers of Iraqi Turkmen. What is known is that these Turkmen minorities are numerous, that their zones of inhabitation overlap at least in part with that of ethnic Kurds, and that they are politically close to Turkey. As Vox‘s Zack Beauchamp noted, in the particular case of Syria the Turkmen are opposed to Russia.

The Turkmen arrived in what’s now Syria centuries ago, as various different Turkic empires — first the Seljuks, then the Ottomans — encouraged Turkish migration into the territory to counterbalance the local Arab majority. Under Bashar al-Assad’s rule, the mostly Sunni Muslim Turkmen in Syria were an oppressed minority, denied even the right to teach their own children in their own language (a Turkish dialect).

However, the Turkmen didn’t immediately join the anti-Assad uprising in 2011. Instead, they were goaded into it by both sides. Assad persecuted them, treating them as a potential conduit for Turkish involvement in the Syrian civil war. Turkey, a longtime enemy of Assad, encouraged the Turkmen to oppose him with force. Pushed in the same direction by two major powers, the Turkmen officially joined the armed opposition in 2012.

Since then, they’ve gotten deeply involved in the civil war, receiving significant amounts of military aid from Ankara. Their location has brought them into conflict with the Assad regime, ISIS, and even the Western-backed Kurdish rebels (whom Turkey sees as a threat given its longstanding struggle with its own Kurdish population). Today, the Syrian Turkmen Brigades — the dominant Turkmen military faction — boast as many as 10,000 fighters, per the BBC, though the real number could be much lower.

The Turkmen role in the conflict has put them directly in Russia’s crosshairs. The Russians, contrary to their stated goal of fighting ISIS, have directed most of their military efforts to helping Assad’s forces fight rebels. The Turkmen have clashed repeatedly with Assad and his allies in the north — which led to Russian planes targeting Turkmen militants last week.

Turkey was not happy, and called in the Russian ambassador to register its disapproval. “It was stressed that the Russian side’s actions were not a fight against terror, but they bombed civilian Turkmen villages and this could lead to serious consequences,” the Turkish foreign ministry said in a description of the meeting provided to Reuters.

Could, as Beauchamp suggests, the Turkish attack have been a warning to Russia to avoid attacking Turkey’s ethnic kin? It’s imaginable, at least.

All I can add is that there’s a tragic irony here. At least in part in an effort to diminish the negative consequences from Russia’s support of armed ethnic kin against their parent state in Ukraine, Russia has now come into conflict with Turkey’s armed ethnic kin as they fight against their parent state.

Written by Randy McDonald

November 24, 2015 at 4:33 pm

[BLOG] Some Monday links

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  • The Broadside Blog’s Caitlin Kelly writes about the things important to her.
  • Crooked Timber’s Chris Bertram shares a quietly beautiful picture of a Paris café late at night.
  • The Dragon’s Gaze notes a paper suggesting that atmospheric haze on exoplanets might be a biosignature.
  • The Dragon’s Tales notes that the Earth appears not to have gotten its water from comets, and examines the geology of Mars’ massive Hellas crater.
  • Far Outliers notes initial Soviet goals in Afghanistan and looks at Soviet reluctance to get involved.
  • Joe. My. God. notes panic in the Republican Party establishment over a possible victory of Carson or Trump.
  • Language Hat notes some online resources on Beowulf and the Hittite language.
  • pollotenchegg maps the distribution of ethnic Germans in Ukraine in 1926.
  • Torontoist notes an architecturally sensitive data centre on Cabbagetown’s Parliament Street.
  • Towleroad notes Ukraine’s passage of a LGBT employment non-discrimination bill.
  • Window on Eurasia notes Putin’s attempt at forming an anti-globalist coalition and notes Russian opinions about Western passivity.

[BLOG] Some Friday links

  • blogTO notes that you can now LARP at Casa Loma.
  • Centauri Dreams notes the odd reddish marks on the surface of Saturn’s moon Tethys.
  • Crooked Timber takes issue with David Frum’s misrepresentation of an article on Mediterranean migration.
  • The Dragon’s Gaze notes the discovery of the aurora of a nearby brown dwarf.
  • The Dragon’s Tales notes evidence of carbonation on the Martian surface and suggests the presence of anomalous amounts of mercury on Earth associated with mass extinctions.
  • Geocurrents maps the terrifying strength of California’s drought.
  • Language Hat notes that Cockney is disappearing from London.
  • Language Log notes coded word usage on the Chinese Internet.
  • Marginal Revolution links to a paper examining the effects of hunting male lions.
  • The Map Room links to new maps of Ceres and Pluto.
  • The Planetary Society Blog examines the Dawn probe’s mapping orbits of Ceres.
  • Progressive Download traces the migration of the aloe plants over time from Arabia.
  • Savage Minds notes how hacktivists are being treated as terrorists.
  • Window on Eurasia notes how the Ukrainian war is leading to the spread of heavy weapons in Russia, looks at Russian opposition to a Crimean Tatar conference in Turkey, suggests that the West is letting Ukraine fight a limited war in Donbas, and looks at the falling Russian birthrate.

[BLOG] Some Friday links

  • blogTO notes the heavy level of pollution in Toronto Harbour following recent rains, and suggests Toronto is set to get gigabit Internet speeds.
  • The Broadside Blog’s Caitlin Kelly talks about her recent vacation in Donegal.
  • Centauri Dreams revisits Robert L. Forward’s Starwisp probe.
  • Crooked Timber speculates that there is hope for rapid action on climate change.
  • The Dragon’s Tales reports on an inflated hot Jupiter orbiting a F-class star.
  • The Dragon’s Tales shares a vintage supercomputer pamphlet.
  • Far Outliers looks at the collapse of the Comanche empire in the 1860s.
  • Language Log looks at the controversial English test in France.
  • Lawyers, Guns and Money reacts to an overly broad pulling of computer games with Confederate flags.
  • Steve Munro reacts to the state of streetcar switches.
  • Torontoist looks at a queer art exhibition at Bay and Wellesley on sex ed.
  • Towleroad shares a straight-married Scottish bishop’s tale of same-sex love.
  • The Volokh Conspiracy notes that remembering the Civil War does not requite keeping the Confederate flag.
  • Window on Eurasia notes how few Crimeans identify with Russia and looks at Finnish, Estonian, and Hungarian influence on Russia’s Finno-Ugric minorities.

[LINK] “How an America-loving country became a jihadi hub”

Michael Petrou of MacLean’s notes the relative success of the Islamic State in finding recruits in Kosovo.

An April report by the Kosovo Center for Security Studies (KCSS) reveals that as of January, some 232 Kosovars have joined Islamist militant groups in Syria and Iraq, a rate of 125 recruits for every one million people living in the country. This is well ahead of Bosnia, which comes in second with 85 recruits per million, and of Belgium, the third-ranked country, with 42 recruits per million.

[. . .]

According to Shpend Kursani, an external research fellow at KCSS and author of the report, most Kosovars still have a positive view of America and NATO. And yet, he says, the majority of Kosovars fighting in the Middle East have joined Islamic State, a militia whose goals include waging war on the West—raising disturbing questions about Islamic State’s ability to penetrate communities that, being broadly secular and pro-Western, would seem to have little reason to support it.

Islamic State’s recruiting success in Kosovo upsets Kosovars who are not sympathetic to the group, or to their fellow citizens who join it. “There’s a sense that people joining Islamic State are betraying in many ways the very nation,” says Florian Bieber, professor of southeast European studies at the University of Graz.

The per capita numbers don’t tell the whole story. Islamic State and Jabhat al-Nusra, the al-Qaeda affiliate from which it split, are Muslim supremacist outfits. Non-Muslims could never join them. When the percentage of recruits is calculated based exclusively on a country’s Muslim population, Kosovo falls lower in rank. It sends about 130 volunteers per one million Muslims in its population—far below several Western European countries, including Finland, which sends some 1,667 recruits per million Muslims, and Belgium, which sends 690.

By this calculation, Kosovo is similar to Bosnia, another Balkan nation with a large Muslim population, which sends 211 recruits for every one million Muslims living there. But Muslim Kosovars are still much more likely to join jihadist groups than Muslims in Albania and Turkey, both Muslim-majority countries. Turkey, which borders Syria and Iraq and is a major transit point for foreign fighters joining Islamic State, sends only eight recruits per million Muslims, barely six per cent of Kosovo’s rate.

Written by Randy McDonald

June 17, 2015 at 10:36 pm

[LINK] “Will Israel reach out to Syrian Druze?”

Writing in Al-Monitor, Ben Caspit speculates that Israel might well intervene in Syria on behalf of the Druze minority in the south of the country, adjoining Israel and with a substantial population of co-religionists inside the Jewish nation-state.

While Israel is gearing up for the “day after Assad,” without knowing what that day without President Bashar al-Assad will bring, Israel’s neutrality with regard to the civil and ethnic war in Syria is being challenged by an interesting turn of events. In the past few weeks, the heads and leaders of the dominant Druze sect in Israel have turned to Israeli authorities with the request to extend help to the hundreds of thousands of Druze in Syria. These Druze are very concerned about the steady advance of the Islamic rebels toward Jabal al-Druze, or Mount Druze, where the majority of Syrian Druze are concentrated.

The contacts were conducted so quietly that were not revealed until June 12 in the Israeli daily Haaretz. The Druze are characterized as being loyal citizens of the central regime of the country in which they live. The Druze, who are dispersed across Syria, Lebanon and Israel, are viewed as an especially close-knit community that maintains tight cultural and familial connections, despite the borders and even wars that play a role in separating their various population centers in the Middle East. They tend to settle and establish their villages on high, mountainous areas, to improve their self-protection and defense capabilities. In Lebanon they are concentrated around Mount Lebanon and in Syria, at Jabal al-Druze, as well. Most of the Druze villages in Israel are located in the mountainous Galilee region.

There are about 136,000 Druze in Israel today; they signed “a covenant of blood” with the Jews even before the establishment of the State of Israel, taking part in Israel’s wars and battles. They have sacrificed their youngsters in Israel’s defense. Thus, they are viewed as patriotic Israelis. Members of the Druze community serve in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) and rise to high-level command positions; the conscription percentages among the Druze minority (those who are Israeli citizens are drafted, unlike Golan Heights Druze, who are not drafted) are even higher than that of Jewish Israelis. On average, 83% of them serve in the IDF, compared with 75% among Jewish Israelis.The military cemeteries are full of graves of Druze soldiers. In short, the vast majority of the Israeli Druze identify themselves with the State of Israel.

When Israel conquered the Golan Heights in 1967, about 20,000 additional Druze, residents of the Heights, found themselves living in Israeli territory. In contrast to their Israeli-Druze brethren, most of the Golan Heights Druze remained loyal to Hafez al-Assad’s regime and refused to accept Israeli citizenship, even though it was offered to them. Nevertheless, and despite their strong affiliation to Syria and their refusal to take Israeli citizenship, good relations and mutual trust prevailed between the Druze in the Golan Heights and the Israeli authorities.

Written by Randy McDonald

June 17, 2015 at 10:31 pm

[LINK] “How Berlin’s Muslims Are Tackling Jihad”

Bloomberg’s Donna Abu-Nasr looks at the various strategies used by Muslims in Berlin to prevent disaffected young people from going off to join ISIS. Engagement, it seems, is key.

Security services say it’s crucial that imams and Muslim families help combat extremism in a way they can’t, even if that means they are blamed inside their communities for selling out – while at the same time confronted by growing animosity toward Islam in their adopted homelands.

“If I had to learn about Islam from the movies and the media, I would be afraid of myself,” said Mohammed Matar, 25, a university student who attends the Dar Assalam Mosque. “They see over there people claiming to speak for Islam. They see Muslims here and they lump us all together.”

From the bombing of London a decade ago to the slaughter at French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in January, home-grown militants have long been on the radar of security forces. The rise of Islamic State in Syria and Iraq means it takes more to combat the extremism at its root.
[. . .]

So far more than 650 Germans have traveled to Syria, according to a senior German security official. They’re among an estimated 4,000 to 5,000 European Muslims, many with Arab immigrant backgrounds, who have exchanged life in a stable country for a place where dissenters are killed.

Written by Randy McDonald

May 20, 2015 at 10:47 pm


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