The distinction between Syrian rebels and Syrian refugees in southern Turkey has become increasingly compromised in recent months. The ongoing militarization of Syrian refugees in Turkey is both organized and of significant scope, but has been overlooked in most analyses of the current events. The conflation of two supposedly divergent entities – combatants and non-combatants, together with the distinct spaces each should occupy – is a familiar one. As seen elsewhere, for example in Afghanistan, Darfur, Kosovo and Rwanda, the militarization of refugeehood not only deprives refugees of rightful protection and sanctuary, but also contributes to the protractedness of conflict. The current crisis and the nature of displacement add to the complexities of the security relationship between Damascus and Ankara. Experience from previous cases of refugee militarization should serve as a warning that the current conflation entails significant risks, and is likely to expand.
Naftalin, Mark & Kristian Berg Harpviken (2012) Rebels and Refugees: Syrians in Southern Turkey, PRIO Policy Brief, 10. Oslo: PRIO.