Ahmet Berat CONKAR (Turkey)
INTRODUCTION: A SIGNIFICANTLY ALTERED BATTLEFIELD
The tragic and bloody civil war in Syria has, since its inception, exposed many of the fundamental fault lines dividing that region and threatening its stability. Those fault lines, moreover, have global implications as well, and, in some respects, mirror rivalries that are shaping contemporary international politics. Precisely for that reason, it would not be accurate to characterise this conflict simply as a civil war. Rather, it has become something of a “great game” in which both regional and external powers as well as non-state actors hold high stakes and conflicting interests.
But it is a great game that has also had terrible humanitarian consequences which have spilled into the neighbouring countries, broader region and beyond to Europe. A horrific refugee crisis that has compelled millions to flee their homes is the most obvious expression of the transnational humanitarian consequences of this war. Since March 2011 an estimated more than half a million people have been killed, more than a million have been injured and roughly 12 million people (half the country’s pre-war population) have been forced from their homes.
The mass movement of refugees and Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) has foisted enormous financial and social burdens on several regional countries including Jordan and Lebanon. While Turkey is far larger than these two countries, it too has made enormous sacrifices to accommodate more than 3.6 million desperate people fleeing the conflict. The refugee flows that have become a major issue between the EU and Turkey is yet another expression of how this conflict has ramified into unforeseen areas of international politics while fomenting new divisions along international, sectarian, ethnic and class lines. [...]