For The Middle East Eye:
ISTANBUL – Turkmens’ role in Syria war dates back to start of uprising but has come to prominence since Russia began bombing campaign.
At the outbreak of the Syrian civil war, thousands of Turkmen – long repressed under the governments of both Hafez and Bashar al-Assad – joined the Free Syrian Army, forming more than 10 brigades in northern Syria.
Almost five years later they have withstood assaults by the Syrian army, have fled the horrors the Islamic State group, and now face the overwhelming firepower of the Russian air force.
But it is only now, after the entry of Russia, and most recently their role in the downing of a Russian plane by Turkey, that the Turkmen have come to prominence among the myriad minorities and groups fighting in Syria.
Turkmen fighters were seen in videos posted on social media shooting at the two pilots of the downed jet as they parachuted to earth and killing one of them. They also destroyed a Russian helicopter with a US-made TOW rocket that was part of a rescue mission searching for the pilots.
So who are the Turkmen, where do their loyalties lie, and who are their chief backers?