Turkey has increased scrutiny of Russian-speaking Muslim communities in the past few months following a series of attacks blamed on Islamic State, a concrete example of the renewed relationship between the two countries.
Turkish police have raided the homes of Russian-speaking immigrants in Istanbul, detained many and expelled others, according to interviews with Russian Muslims living in the city. At least some of those targeted by Turkish authorities are known to be sympathetic to radical Islamist movements, reports Reuters.
The security activity indicates that Russia and Turkey are sharing intelligence, part of a newly-forged alliance that has also seen Moscow and Ankara work together on a peace deal for Syria.
The cooperation comes as a resurgent Russia, already active in Ukraine and keen to boost its diplomatic influence in the Middle East, has been playing a greater role in Syria in the vacuum left by the United States under Barack Obama.
The roundups mark a change for Turkey, which has historically welcomed Muslims fleeing what they say is repression in countries including Russia, among them communities who fought government forces in Russia’s North Caucasus.
“Around ten of my acquaintances are in jail now,” said Magomed-Said Isayev, a Muslim from the Russian North Caucasus mountains, who moved to Istanbul three years ago.
He said for most of his time in Turkey he had no difficulties with the authorities. He said he had done nothing to harm Turkish citizens, but now he felt he was no longer safe from the threat of detention.
Turkey has been criticized by some Western allies for being too slow to stop the flow of foreign fighters crossing its borders to join Islamic State in Syria and Iraq in the early years of the jihadist group’s rise.
Turkey has rejected such suggestions, saying it needed greater intelligence sharing from its allies in order to intercept would-be jihadists. It has tightened its borders and last August launched a military campaign in Syria to push Islamic State away from Turkish territory.