The Effect of Public Opinion on AKP’s Syrian Policy: “Stop! We Are Friends”

The public opinion poll results of Turkey with regard to “intervention in Syria” and Turkey’s tendencies have seen a dramatic change over the past seven months. As can be understood from hundreds of news items, both “pro-government” and “objective” organizations have shown that the Turkish public does not support the current government’s Syrian policies.

The research conducted by various respected research companies shows that the prime minister is alone on the subject of Syria.

There are two important events the last six months that caused relations with Syria to change completely: the first was the downing of the Turkish army jet in Syrian airspace, and the second was the shelling from Syrian forces that fell within the Turkish border. Following the first incident, a significant reaction was registered by the public in social media. Although the Turkish jet was registered in the Syrian territories and invaded Syrian airspace, no fuse traces were seen in the engine views of the wreckage of the plane. The international organizations and other countries simply condemned this event, although it has been a long time since Turkey explained the reports related to its “amendment of the engagement rules” and the report related to “the downing.” Since the event occurred, Turkey’s “hidden” demand of indemnification has been noticed by society in general, and the reactions given in the first days of the event were therefore replaced by cooler behavior.


The second incident that caused the Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) Syrian policy to gain supporters was undoubtedly the shelling that landed within the Turkish border and the “civilian deaths” that occurred thereof. Despite the immediate “retort” after the event, Bashar al-Assad’s “strategic” apology only increased the pulse of the Turkish public. Reactions saying “No to War” and “Peace at Home, Peace in the World” on the days around the fall of the bomb in the media and the wider public seemed to be effective on AKP officials, as AKP delegates did not exercise a block vote with regard to the cross-border memorandum the party tried to pass. As for the results of public opinion research on AKP’s Syria policies, the explanations of ibrahim Uslu – the general manager of ANAR Research, (the research company working for the AKP government) – are remarkable. In his evaluation, Uslu stresses that the ratio of those who want to have a war with Syria is limited to a small group – between 3 and 5 percent. Moreover, ANAR also stated that while Turkish people generally considered the al-Assad regime to be a bad one oppressing the public, they also tended to see the Syrian people as friends and siblings.

In the research conducted by Mobile Research in 42 cities, in which 6,460 unions participated, 63.7 percent of those polled thought that the Arab Spring experienced in Syria would actually only take Syria to a new colonial order. 48.1 percent of those who said they were AKP voters agreed with this opinion. As it can be clearly seen here, almost half of AKP voters agreed that what was being experienced in Syria could not result in an “independent and prosperous” Syria.

ANDY-AR reached similar results, revealing that 67.1 percent disagreed with the government on Syria, while only 18.3 percent of the community agreed with it. It is certainly necessary to emphasize that this survey took place after the downing of the Turkish jet, which is one of the two diffraction lines mentioned above.

The results obtained from the research made by EDAM – which was selected the 22nd best think tank in the world by means of TNS – were no different from those of other research organizations, only differing in terms of obtaining more detailed findings. While 41.1 percent of the survey participants expressed that they should “not interfere” in Syria, 15.9 percent were of the opinion that “political and diplomatic initiatives should be continued.” The ratio of those who are directly against a military struggle therefore equals 57 percent. Only 11.7 percent of respondents agreed that “direct military intervention should be made in Syria.” Therefore, all results of the public surveys applied to this date indicate that the AKP has been left alone on its Syrian policy.

In the studies on Turkey’s policy with regard to the post-Assad environment, public opinion has given a message that it expects parallel behavior from the AKP.

For example, in the research made by EDAM, the general tendency supported the view that “Turkey should not intervene with and should be objective toward the developments in Syria” The same organization applied the same survey to foreign policy specialists, finding that while those supporting Turkey’s mediation between the conflicting parties was 36 percent, the tendency toward not intervening in developments and staying objective was 26 percent.

Furthermore, those who are anti-war and want the practice of a peaceful Syria policy continue to loudly utter these demands, despite all “games” and negative developments, say: “Stop, we are friends.” In this approach, Turkey’s foreign policy – despite some exceptional events experienced from period to period – is adopting and internalizing a peaceful tradition. The principle of “Peace at home, peace in the world” is highly effective.

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