Attorney Ali Öztürkmen, the representative of Syria Turks stated that the main reason of the nationwide uprising is due to public’s being exploited by Assad family, their relatives and close environs for many years. While expressing the events, Öztürkmen said that ‘People want that these oppressions to end and the withdrawal of the despotic government who had been persecuting people for 45 years.’
Ali Öztürkmen, represantative of Syrian Turkmens, who visited our journal, shared his views on the crisis in his country with our colleagues.
Öztürkmen’s answers to our questions are as follows:
• Mr. Öztürkmen, Could you evaluate the events in Syria within the perspective of Arab spring?
Arab Spring, with its brief description, is public’s outcry of longing for freedom and democracy. It is an innocent reaction against the dictatorial regime which had been serving to rulers’ families, western countries and Israel. This movement which is not based on any organization or organizational base, began on 17 December 2010 in Sidi Buzid, a city in Tunis.
Tunisian police confiscated the wares of 26-year old fruit vendor Muhammed Buazizi and assaulted him. Upon this, Muhammed Buazizi set himself on fire by pouring gasoline in front of the city hall. Before he died, Buazizi cried out ‘Let the poverty end, let the unemployment end’. This event spilled the public out into the streets and the protests that were the initiators of Arap Spring continued until the ‘Jasmine Revolution’ Later on, this movement spread to other Arab countries who had been longing for democracy, individual rights and freedom for years.
What event has triggered the movement in Syria?
The event that has triggered the movement in Syria, was the writings of approximately 14 year old 16 students’ ‘abolish the regime, people want freedom’ on the school wall.
On March 18, 2011, after Friday prayer as a reaction, people protested those children’s taken into custody and tortured by security guards.
During the protests random fire was opened towards people, ultimately more than 10 Syrian people were killed and then people poured into the streets.
Could you describe briefly the process that had caused these events with the eruption of the action dated 5 March 2011?
Management in Syria is an administration which came to power with a military coup in 963 that does not have legitimacy, and is transferred from father to son. State management in Syria has come to today departed from the Syrian public without basing on a broad basis. The current administration provides the basic doctrine of looking after the interests of those who belong to his own family and doctrine without making compromise. As of today, the state that represents 5%, the minority, tries to suppress the rebellions with extreme terror and massacres. As a result of these massacres, the determined number of dead has reached 4650. In fact, the real figures are much higher than this, is between ten-fifteen thousand. In lots of regions, it is known that there are mass graves of which are identified and are exposed by people. In order to delete the massacres’ tracks some corpses are removed by burning.
The main reason of the insurrection is the exploitation of people both politically and economically by Assad family, their relatives and close environs for many years.
People want that these difficulties come to an end and the withdrawal of the despotic government that has been persecuted for 45 years. People want the administration of the state is given to the freewill of the public, and equal opportunities is given to everyone, in other words, they request that state implements the principle of equal citizenship.
• Mr. Öztürkmen, could you give us some information about the status of the Turks in Syria?
The arrival of Turks on the geography of Syria began with Tulinid Dynasty, gained intensity with the immigration of Oguz tribes to these lands during the Seljuk period. After establishing Seljuk State and leaving the management to Atabegs, Turkmens began to play an active role in the region; especially during the reign of Atabeg Nuriddin ZİNKİ, they played an important role in crusades and the conquest of Jerusalem. The presence of Turks in the region, based on a history of 1000 years, until the Ottoman Empire’s losing this territory at the end of the First World War. Later, those territories which were given to the French mandate, build up the today’s Middle East. For many years, presence of Turks has been one of the groups that made up Syria, Palestine, Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq. According to the present data, there are approximately 3.5 million Turkmen in Syria. The number of Turkmen who protects their language is about 1.5 million. This number corresponds approximately 5 % of the population. Hence, 2 million people have forgotten Turkish, yet haven’t lost their identity. They live in the city centre of Aleppo and densely in approximately 145 villages. Most of the Turkmen families located in cities as well as rural areas. And this constitutes approximately 65% of Turkmen. Turkmen are spread over a vast area in Syria. The reason that Turkmen population in Syria couldn’t take place in Syrian politics is that they have lived under great pressure for many years. As a result of heavy pressure that began under the French Mandate and lasted during the nationalist Arab and Baath Regimes, Turkmens have been detached from the Turkish World and assimilated. The Turkish hostility has reached the peak under the valid governance which has been ruling power in Syria for 45 years. Thousands of our brothers have been imprisoned due to different excuses to make hem lose their own language and culture. Turkish Republic has been tried to be eroded through PKK by feeding and supporting the Kurds living in Syria. Recently Turks again became the target of the internal rebellions. During the internal rebellions Turkish territories are being blockaded, riots and violence are being increased. While we were sharing the joy of capturing the terrorist leader Abdullah Öcalan, the pressure on us has been increased. We experienced the pain of capturing process.
• Do Syrian Turkmens actively support the revolts in Syria?
Turkmens support the opposing movements. We have had over 400 casualties throughout Syria during these events. In addition, there are hundreds of missing and detained Turkmens. Two Turkmen villages in the border of Lebanese were bombed by Bathes thugs due to rebels, women and girls were being raped. We have over 5000 loss and prisoners. We are all concerned for what we lived through; many of us were killed under torture. Mass graves were found at several points in the region. Random fires have opened to the Sunni public by petty criminals established by the supports of Syrian security forces and the regime. These massacres have started in Deraa and been continuing in Bunyas, Hama, İdib, Cısır-Sugur and Humus. Systematic massacres are being done in many parts of Syria today. The current administration has been doing the preparations for these events by dismissing the governors and police officers and replacing them with a staff of ex killers. Bashar al-Assad have been dismissing moderate executives and cutting off city’s water, electricity and communication for days.
Sabbiha Gangs, established by the Syrian security forces, composed by ordinary criminals, open random fire to the public. These massacres start at Banyas and continue in Hama, Idib, Cisir- Sugur and Humus take place. Today, in many parts of Syria, there have been systematic massacres. Today, in many parts of Syria, there have been systematic massacres. The current administration has been doing the preparations of these events by discharging the governors and police officers and replacing them with a staff of former killers. Bashar al Asssad has been dismissing moderate executives and cutting off the city’s water, electricity and communication for days. Afterward, safety of the city has been left to the bloody killers and mass murders have been carried out.
What are your requirements from the administration being Turkmens living in Syria?
Being Turkmens of Syria we demand the protection of our rights within the framework of the constitution in the new formation and the acceptance of our being one of the three main elements (Arab, Turkmen, Kurdish) that build up Syria.
During the former Baath regime, no organizational rights were granted to the Syrian Turkmens. They neither found a possibility of establishing an association nor worked out a cultural activity or a political movement. In some areas it was even prohibited for Turkmens to sing a folk song in their own language. In such a regime Turkmens couldn’t find an opportunity to actualize an organizational life. Yet, we hope that Turkmens would straighten up to a position where they can defend their rights as a political and social movement
A civil-democratic political system will emerge depending on the success of the revolution in Syria. The greatest expectation of Turkmens in Syria within this atmosphere, is the acceptance of their being one of the main elements that build up Syrian society in the new constitution. In addition, they demand to have education in their mother-tongue and other social and cultural rights. In fact, these demands are valid in the agreement signed on October 20th, 1921 in Ankara between Turkey and Syria.
• What are your expectations from Turkey in this process?
Syrian people expect from Turkey to play an active role. This is prevalent both for Turkmens and other groups. Moreover, the reliance which is not being placed to western countries is being placed to Turkey. Esteemed Prime Minister Erdoğan’s statements deeply influenced the people of Syria. A large number of Turkish flags are hung during public demonstrations and Turkish written banners are being carried by Arabs. But Turkey’s current attitude is considered inadequate. The Syrian people should be supported more, someone should be the interpreter of the massacres we are living through, should forge public opinion on our misery at the international level. Turkey should bring these events up to world’s agenda.
We would like Turkey and the Turkish world to advertise the sound of the Syrian people to whole world. We demand support for the protection of the Turkmen identity and rights within the framework of the new constitution of the state system that is going to be formed in future. So far, nothing has been done for Turkmens. 3.5 million Turkmens’ names are not mentioned in world public. Our desire is being placed in the new process and to protect our rights. In order to realize it the way of Syrian Turkmen Movement should be paved and recognized. No Turkmen representative has ever been recognized the right to represent Turkmens in the National Assembly of Syria consisting of 201 members whereas Kurds have accession of 21 members. The rights that have been granted to other groups should be granted to Turkmens as well; at this point we should be given the right to represent our society with an adequate number of members. Passivating of Turkmens in the Baath period and the policy of ignoring have also been conducted by the National Committee.