Last Wednesday, members of the Global Leadership Center along with Doctor Walid Raad and his students from Lebanese International University meet with Ohio University’s chapter of STAND, the student-led division of the United to End Genocide (formerly Genocide Intervention Network) in order to discuss the unrest taking place in Syria. At that time , the role of Turkey was mentioned briefly, in reference to the 10,000 Syrian refugees that fled to the country after their government turned the military loose on them in June of 2011. Recent reports; however, describe a much more involved role for Turkey in the Syrian Conflict.
In June of this year, tensions were strained between Syria and Turkey, when a Turkish plane that had strayed into Syrian territory was shot down, an action believed to be in response for Turkey’s support of the Syrian rebels. At this time the number of Syrian refugees in Turkey had grown to over 32,000 and Syrian diplomats had been expelled from Turkey in response to reports of a civilian massacre committed by President Bashar Assad’s regime in the town of Houla even after a cease-fire had been called the month before. Turkey warned Syria that if their soldiers were to come near the border, they would be viewed as a threat and military action would be taken, but there would be no immediate retaliation for the downed aircraft. Turkey’s threat was strongly supported by NATO.
- The Bodies from the Houla Massacre
Syria appears to have taken that threat lightly. On Wednesday, a Syrian mortar bomb was fired into the Turkish border town of Akcakale, killing two women and three children in a home. This attack prompted the retaliation of Turkey who used heavy artillery on Syria and held a parliamentary vote to authorize further military action. After authorization from parliamentary and the approval of NATO, Turkey has continued shelling Syria. The Turkish government has stated that it does not want a war with Syria, it only wants to protect its borders and its people.
- Turkey Shells Syria
Returning to the conversation that occurred last week at the STAND meeting, it seems that the Syrian Conflict warrants far more international attention and perhaps intervention than what it has received. The United States, along with the other NATO members including Turkey, has taken a clear stance of support of the rebels, but should more be done? Certainly the sovereign affairs of Syria are not the responsibility of the United States or any other country but this conflict has become so much more than civil war. Militia groups from other nations have poured into the country to take part in the mayhem and not necessarily to the benefit of the Syrian people. Atrocities on innocent civilians, especially children, have been committed by both sides and are taking on genocidal characteristics. Now, the conflict is spilling into the surrounding nations. It is clear that all efforts to negotiate this issue in peace have been in vein. At what point should the international community step in to pacify the violence?
The answer to that question might not be a simple one. I certainly don’t have it, but at some point somebody with the resources to do something about it has got to step in.