Entering the 21st century, Turkey found itself neighbouring political instability. Flashbacks of the American invasion of Iraq accompanies the Syrian crisis; one that has an unkown number of belligerent factions. Despite not having direct affiliation or involvement in both crises, Turkey was not safe from spill-overs either. In fact, Turkey bounced back from the brink of war a few times. ISIS however, exploited the tumultuous atmosphere on both sides of the border to achieve its agenda.
Mosul consulate kidnappings
The presence of ISIS had direct and indirect impacts on Turkey. The most notorious struggle was the incidents in Mosul city of Iraq. ISIS militants assaulted Turkey’s Mosul consulate and kidnapped the head of diplomatic mission, Ozturk Yilmaz, and several staff members, a total of 49 citizens on June 11, 2014. A day before, ISIS had also abducted 31 civilian truck drivers.
In the months that followed, Turkish officials carried out extensive initiatives which resulted in abductees safely returning to Turkey after 101 days of captivity. The time-frame between the abductions and release of Turkish citizens coincided with the period that ISIS gained territory.
Waves of violence in Autumn of 2014
The most significant repercussion, stemming from the activities of ISIS, was the waves of violence that inflamed Turkey between October 6 and 7, 2014. As a result of the ISIS offensive on the Kobani (named Ayn al Arab in Arabic) region of Syria in late September 2014, the pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP), accused incumbent Justice and Development Party (AK Party) of not doing enough to save Kobani and called the public to pour to the streets to take “action.”
The consequent violence claimed lives of about 50 Turkish citizens throughout 40 different cities. Hundreds were injured. Police headquarters were attacked and 2 policemen were killed. Vandalism caused serious property damage to government buildings, political party offices, shops, offices of NGOs, public transport vehicles; many of which were set ablaze.
Deputy Prime Minister Yalcin Akdogan refuted claims on Turkey’s passive stance and pointed out that just in a few days, Turkey embraced over 172,684 refugees from the region. Another Minister, Cevdet Yilmaz from the Ministry of Development deemed the call by the HDP “dishonest” by reminding that the HDP had previously voted “no” to a security bill in parliament, one that would have allowed further involvement across the border if need be.
At the end of October, about 200 Kurdish Peshmerga and FSA (Free Syrian Army) fighters, with heavy equipment were allowed passage through the Turkish borders to reach Kobani and contain the situation. Turkey opened the doors to people who were wounded in Kobane in June 2015 also. Around 130 were brought to Turkish hospitals.
ISIS re-attacked to Kobane with two bomb-laden vehicles near the Mursitpinar border gate of Turkey. More than 100 people were killed and many were wounded.