On Wednesday the Turkish prime minister Ahmet Davutoglu accused Russia of “ethnic cleansing” in northern Syria.
— Dion Nissenbaum (@DionNissenbaum) December 9, 2015
“Russia is trying to make ethnic cleansing in northern Latakia to force (out) all Turkmen and Sunni population who do not have good relations with the regime,” Davutoglu said during a news conference in Istanbul.
“They want to expel them, they want to ethnically cleanse this area so that the regime [of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad] and Russian bases in Latakia and Tartus are protected,” he added.
Davutoglu also said targeting the supplies lines of Turkish supported jihadi groups will benefit the Islamic State.
Russia has conducted airstrikes against all groups in Syria fighting to overthrow the government of al-Assad, including the Syrian Turkmen Brigades situated around Latakia, Aleppo, Homs, al-Raqqah, Damascus, Idlib, Hama and Tartus.
The Turkmens in Syria were among the first to attack the Syrian government following the so-called Arab Spring engineered by the United States.
In March 2015 it was reported the Turkish Special Forces Command, a highly trained elite special operations unit of the Turkish Armed Forces, trains the Turkmens in Syria and Iraq. Turkish officials confirmed the training is taking place in Syria at secret camps.
The Turkish government considers the areas of Syria where the Turkmens live to be its eastern Ukraine, that is to say part of Turkey.
Turkey Pioneered Modern Ethnic Cleansing and Genocide
Davutoglu’s accusation ignores the fact the Ottoman Empire and later Turkey more or less pioneered modern genocide and ethnic cleansing in 1915 when it slaughtered between 800,000 and 1.5 million Armenians. The state rounded up and massacred able-bodied males, deported women and children, forced the elderly and infirm to participate in death marches into the Syrian desert, and starved, robbed and raped Turkish Armenians. Christian ethnic groups such as the Assyrians and the Ottoman Greeks were also targeted for extermination.
The Turkish government has denied it is responsible for the Armenian Genocide. It insists the the extermination was the result of deportations during World War One despite the fact the genocide continued until 1923, years after the end of the war.
Ethically Cleansing the Kurds
Turkey is accused of ethnically cleansing Kurds in the 1980s and 1990s. It forcibly emigrated over two million people and destroyed approximately 6,000 Kurdish villages.
“In 1999, the death toll of Kurds killed in Turkish military operations increased to over 40,000. According to the figures published by Turkey’s own Parliament, 6,000 Kurdish villages were systematically evacuated of all inhabitants and 3,000,000 Kurds have been displaced. This sounds like an elimination of a people, a culture and a homeland,” writes Rebwar Fatah.
Human Rights Watch reports:
Evacuations were unlawful and violent. Security forces would surround a village using helicopters, armored vehicles, troops, and village guards, and burn stored produce, agricultural equipment, crops, orchards, forests, and livestock. They set fire to houses, often giving the inhabitants no opportunity to retrieve their possessions. During the course of such operations, security forces frequently abused and humiliated villagers, stole their property and cash, and ill-treated or tortured them before herding them onto the roads and away from their former homes. The operations were marked by scores of “disappearances” and extrajudicial executions.
Considering the track record of Turkey in regard to the genocide of Armenians and later the Kurds, Davutoglu’s remarks are at best disingenuous.
An article posted to The Wall Street Journal on Wednesday covering the prime minister’s accusation did not bother to mention the fact Turkey continues to target Kurdish civilians. Davutoglu’s accusation is stripped of its overriding historical context and is used as yet another propaganda piece against Russia.