Pupils gesture in a classroom in the Syrian city of Al-Bab, Syria, October 3, 2017. REUTERS/Khalil Ashawi
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AL-BAB, Syria/BEIRUT/ANKARA: Children returning to school in the northern Syrian city of Al-Bab were handed a new textbook this term: "Turkce ?reniyorum"Turkish lessons, Turkish signposts, Turkish-trained police and most recently a Turkish post office all point to Turkey's deepening role in an area of northern Syria it captured from Daesh (ISIS) with the help of Syrian rebels. Turkish administrators are even helping to run hospitals in the area. With the Euphrates Shield region calm for months, Ankara says it wants to help recovery and to encourage a return of Syrian refugees, millions of whom fled the 6-year-old war into Turkey.But Turkish support is also consolidating the region's status as a Syrian opposition-held territory where Turkey-backed Syrian opposition groups are building their own government even as the forces of President Bashar Assad win back swathes of the country elsewhere. Turkish classes, taught by Syrians trained in Turkey, have started for pupils aged between six and nine.Turkey's intervention was driven chiefly by concern over the growing sway of Syrian Kurdish groups seen by Ankara as an extension of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which has waged a three-decade long insurgency against the Turkish state.
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