Is Turkey a “terrorist state”?

The AKP has lost 9 points compared with the previous elections, but the reasons for this are clear, and none of these are enduring qualities characteristic of this party. Indeed, from Erdoğan and Davutoğlu down, the party's post-election stance and outlook provide important clues for the AKP's capacity for self-renovation.

Oral Çalışlar

The Turkish original of this article was published as 'Türkiye “terörist devlet” mi?' on 30th June 2015.


What was the so-called “Parallel State” [= a conspiratorial network of elements implanted by, and loyal to, the Gulen Congregation within the army, the police and the judiciary — translator’s note] seeking to achieve by launching an operation targeting the MİT [= National Intelligence Organization] trucks heading south across the border? Were they really concerned with illegal gun-running? Or was it the AKP government that they were after? They have kept ceaselessly serving their operational photos to the media to this day. And their efforts are not going unrecognized by power centers and the media in the West. Why? What is behind this?


Starting with the 17-25 December operations, a propaganda campaign has been launched, and is being escalated notch by notch, to the effect that “they are aiding and abetting terrorism” — which is why I have started asking these questions afresh. The last IS offensive against Kobani has once more promoted this topic to the top of the agenda. “Turkey is supporting the IS by providing them with right of passage.” This assertion has entered circulation yet again.      


What is the point of this campaign?


You might have a bone to pick with the AKP government. You might disagree with its policy line on Syria and the Middle East. You might regard it as unreasonable for it to label the PYD as a “terrorist organization,” and even more so for this accusation to be launched while the Solution Process is (was) still under way in Turkey. You might react strongly against statements about “the Kurdish question being over and done with” that are intended to appease nationalism. And indeed, we too have been voicing our criticisms on all these points.    


But for heaven’s sake, let us please also have the decency to admit that claims about “Turkey supporting IS” or “Turkey supporting terrorism” constitute exorbitantly propagandistic falsehoods.


In yesterday’s article I cited the views of Ehud Barak, a foremost Israeli politician. “The most correct and realistic analysis on IS has been Turkey’s,” Barak says, emphasizing that “the first address for any solution also has to be Turkey.” But curiously, both the national and the international press that keeps harping on this notion of a “terrorist Turkey” has wholly overlooked Barak’s comments.


Regardless of your degree of hostility to any person or political movement, there are such things as fairness and truthfulness that you should not be losing sight of.


If you do have any documentary evidence, just come up with it


There are those who keep claiming that “IS warriors were passing through [Turkish territory]; we have their photographs” or “we have their videos to prove it.” In response, the very first thing to be said is probably the following: They should bring these or any other documents before the National Assembly and question the government over them. It won’t do to keep politicking on the basis of the various assertions reproduced on television and in the press. It is not just or fair. People in possession of hard facts and documentary evidence should put it before lawfully empowered bodies and call the authorities to account. They do have all the rights and means to do it.   


Of course, there is also a second take on this question that bears some significance. The Islamist movement in Turkey has always maintained a sharp boundary between itself and violence. Despite all the persecution that it has been subjected to, it has never opted for violence. As one of the founding fathers of this movement, one of Necmettin Erbakan’s greatest contributions to Turkey’s political life was to keep Islamism on a legitimate basis.


Islamism and violence


It is the greatest fear of the Islamist movement itself that “Islamist” violence might rise and spread in Turkey. Put in other words, they cannot have anything to gain by inciting violence with their own hands.


A third point is that Turkey has been supporting “Syrian forces opposing the Assad régime” from the outset. And not only Turkey but the US and the West, too, have been supporting this opposition. Recently a camp for “training and equipping” opposition forces has been set up on Turkish soil. Isn’t its primary sponsor and promoter the US? 


Fourthly, the whole world also knows that Turkey has been supporting this opposition by providing both food and munitions. When “the Syrian Opposition” first emerged, it was a united opposition. They included those preferring to collaborate with the West as well as hard-lining Islamists.


Fifthly, what then happened was that as a result of numerous other factors coming into play, including Russian support for Assad, the West and especially the US gradually reduced its support for the opposition to vanishing point. In turn, Assad was encouraged by such indecision and hesitancy to launch an even more ruthlessly aggressive war against the opposition. It was this barbarity that played into the hands of the Syrian Opposition’s radicals. While the moderate wing of the Opposition grew progressively weaker, first Al Nusra and then IS emerged as more effective actors. And it is probable that in the process, some of the weapons previously sent to the Opposition passed into their hands. 


The refugees at the border


Sixthly, whether because they came under persecution from the Syrian régime, or because of the fighting between IS and the Kurds, or in flight from various other conflicts, numerous and sometimes quite different groups have crossed the border to take refuge in this country. They include militants as well as ordinary people. It is public knowledge that during the first siege of Kobani, 1500 wounded PYD fighters were treated in Turkish hospitals. Possibly, there were fighters of the Free Syrian Army that also came in through other border crossings. When caring for all these wounded, you cannot really distinguish between who is from IS, who is from the PYD, who is from the Free Syrian Army, and treat or not treat them accordingly. It is neither practically feasible nor humane.


Seventh, you are entitled to being critical of the attitude, outlook and language adopted by the president in general, and especially over these issues. You might find him provocative; you might disagree with his prognoses; you might question his objectives. 


All such alternative opinions or evaluations are admissible. But none of these can justify the claim that “Turkey is supporting IS.”


Just what can the opposition in Turkey hope to achieve for itself by declaring Turkey to be a “terrorist state,” accusing it of being “pro-IS,” and carrying out a world-wide smearing and mud-slinging campaign to that effect?   


Such campaigns are not truthful. They incite further polarization. They go hand in hand with all kinds of “disaster scenarios.” Not only do they lead to great difficulties abroad, but they also create domestic barriers in the way of reason, peace, and the Solution Process.