• Arwa Hanin Elrayess

Turkey's operation in Northern Syria- explained in under 3 minutes

Updated: Dec 19, 2019

A simplified overview:



Tensions are rapidly increasing due to an operation (led by Turkey) that aims to establish a ‘safety corridor’ in the worn-torn state of Syria.


This ‘corridor’ will act as a buffer zone between Turkey and threatening organizations that reside in Northern Syria, whilst also allowing millions of Syrian refugees to leave Turkey and return to their homeland.


Syria's 'safe zone'

However, this operation appears to have taken a turn for the worst as Kurdish militias (military force made from the civil population) fight off Turkish soldiers, leaving hundreds dead and encouraging the rise of a terrorist group (ISIS) in the region.


How and why did the situation reach this detrimental point and are Turkey’s actions justified or are they part of a secret agenda?


Where do we start?


There are 2 main reasons behind Turkey’s need to create a ‘safety corridor’ between itself and Northern Syria.


Reason 1:


During 2011, when Syria descended into a major civil war, protests erupted across the country against Syria’s dictatorial government.


When the Syrian government turned their attention to these protests, they left Northern Syria in a vulnerable and unguarded state, creating a power vacuum that was quickly filled by the ISIS terrorist group.


ISIS was able to successfully establish themselves in Northern Syria, however, ‘Kurds’ who predominantly inhabited the region, fought back, supported by US air support and ground training.


In 2015, they banded with non-Kurdish militias to form the SDF (Syrian Democratic Forces) successfully pushing ISIS out of Northern Syria in 2019.


They imprisoned over 11,000 ISIS soldiers in the process.




The Kurds successfully pushed ISIS from Northern Syria, creating a new power vacuum, one that paved the way for the expansion of Kurdish-led territory, and encouraged the rise of their empire.


The SDF’s growing power in Northern Syria worried Turkey. Turkey feared that the SDF’s increasing momentum would encourage a Kurdish terrorist group (PKK) to revolt in the same manner.




Previously, Turkey has been able to control the PKK, keeping their acts of terrorism to a minimum. When the SDF began gaining momentum in Northern Syria, the Turkish government feared that the PKK would pick up on the movement.


Therefore, Turkey hoped that by establishing a ‘safety corridor’ they would be able to push the SDF’s influence further from the Turkish border, reducing the chances of a PKK revolution in Turkey.


Reason 2:


The Syrian civil war forced 6 million citizens to seek refuge in neighboring countries.


Turkey, being the most welcoming and accommodating surrounding country, accepted 3.2 million Syrian refugees.


Supported by Turkey’s president (Erdogan), Syrian’s were treated like Turkish citizens. They were given the Turkish residency and the opportunity to integrate into the Turkish community.


Turkey spent 30 billion dollars on Syrian refugees

However, due to a trade war with the U.S, financial mismanagement, and a plethora of unemployed Syrian refugees, Turkey’s economy began to cripple.


The Turks found Syrians responsible for this economic crash, so their spite for Syrians and the Turkish president (Erdogan) increased.


In order to please his people, Erdogan decided to create a ‘safety corridor’ in Northern Syria, where 2 million unemployed Syrians would return to their homeland, hopefully improving Turkey’s economy.



When did things go wrong?



After a phone call between President Erdogan and President Trump, the U.S. military pulled out of Northern Syria (breaking their alliance with the Kurds and allowing Turkish military to enter the soon-to-be ‘safe zone’.)


Kurdish militia was then warned to withdraw their troops from the ‘safe zone’ or else they would be ‘cleared.’


Erdogan stated that he did not want Kurdish civilians or Syrian troops to leave Northern Syria, he only wished for Kurdish militia to withdraw their troops, so Turkey could initiate their ‘safe zone’ plan.

However, hundreds of Kurdish fighters remained in Syria's northeast border, despite the truce demanding their withdrawal.


So, the fighting began.


Some 300,000 people have been displaced by Turkey's operation and 120 civilians have been killed, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.


It said 259 fighters with the Kurdish-led forces had been killed, and 196 Turkey-backed Syrian rebels.


Turkey says 765 terrorists but no civilians have been killed in its operation.


Additionally, as terror and destruction reigns over Northern Syria, ISIS prisons are left unguarded, allowing hundreds to escape.


Security camera footage of ISIS prisoners' families escaping detention camps


However, some have said that the escape of these prisoners might have been the Kurd’s way to get back at the U.S. for breaking their truce, but nothing is known for certain.


ISIS prisoners' escape could encourage another ISIS uprising in the region.


Things aren’t looking hopeful in Northern Syria and the region’s fate remains unclear.



Is Turkey’s plan to establish a ‘safe zone’ justified or do the Kurd’s have a right to fight back, resulting in more death and chaos?


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