|Hasan Kanbolat, ORSAM Director|
When the Arab Spring leapt into Syria in March 2011, it
caused social dynamics that had been covered up for a long
time to really start emerging. One of these dynamics concerns
the Syrian Turkmen, a group that is especially
significant for Turkey, as they are a related society.
Syrian Turkmen are trying to distinguish themselves these
days as a group that will be an influential actor in whatever
new political structures emerge in Syria. But the fact that
they have not been organized for years and years, and that
they live separated and broken off from Turkey, means
that they face the risks of not only losing their language,
but their identity as well.
There are around 1.5 million Turkmen who speak
a Turkic language living in Syria today, and about
2 million more who have forgotten their native tongue.
When one considers the heterogeneous character of
Syria’s social fabric, these numbers are quite significant,
especially when you think about their potential effect
on national politics. The Turkmen who have forgotten
their original language live quite aware of their identities,
but have also embraced and become one with the
language and culture of the region in which they
live. Those Turkmen who tend to live in smaller social
groups have largely become Arab, culturally speaking.
Most Syrian Turkmen are members of the Sunni Hanefi sect.
There are very few who are Alevi. Linguistically, the
language spoken by Syrian Turkmen is very close
to Turkey’s Turkish.
Most Syrian Turkmen live in Lazkiye (these are the
Bayır-Bucak Turkmen), Humus, Hama, Halepo
and outside of Damascus. There are also the Golan
Turkmen, who used to live in and around Kuneytra.
Because of the Israeli invasion, this group had to spread
all over the country. There are also very limited numbers
of Syrian Turkmen living in and around Tartus, Rakka,
Idlib and Dera.
Though there have been fluctuations from time to time,
in general, there has never really been any consistent
sense of political nationalism among the Syrian Turkmen.
There is, on the other hand, a reactionary and cultural
sense of nationalism among them. The strict structure
of the Syrian system has generally prevented any
politicization of Turkmen movements. Despite this,
this most recent uprisings in Syria have also seen a rising
Turkmen nationalist movement. They appear to be not
only trying to obtain their own rights, but also discover
where their identities lie within the framework of Syria,
as well as prove their very existence to the rest of society.
The national uprising in Syria provides an important
opportunity for Syrian Turkmen.
If the move towards a revolution in Syria turns out to be
successful, a civil democratic system may emerge.
In such an atmosphere, the greatest expectation of Syrian
Turkmen is to be counted in a new constitution as
one of the important groups making up Syrian society.
In addition to this, other expectations include things
like political and constitutional reforms, a transition
to a multi-party system, the inclusion of Turkmen in the
process of producing a new constitution and
recognition of Turkmen as an official language in
regions where there are heavy Turkmen populations.
Turkmen are present in some of the opposition movements
in Syria these days. Since March 2011 there have
been many Turkmen who have lost their lives in the
clashes that have marked all of Syria. There are also
hundreds of Turkmen who have either disappeared
or been arrested. The Turkmen do expect that Turkey
will help bring the world’s attention to not only Syria,
but their community within Syria. As such, they do
want to see support expressed for the protection of
their identity and rights within the framework of
any new state system that we see emerge in Syria.
|19 March 2012|