teleSUR, 9 January 2015 **** Front Page

Erdogan Unmasks Turkey

By Bruno Jäntti

Much to the chagrin of the states vested in the so-called ‘war on terror', Turkey's actions might deliver a heavy blow to the credibility of the global counter-terrorism jargon.

For decades, Turkey has portrayed itself as a torchbearer in the ever-venerable ‘war on terrorism'. The country's Western allies have joined in, dubbing Ankara “our best ally in this fight”, as the US ambassador Robert Pearson put it at a conference in Istanbul to mark the 50th anniversary of Turkey joining NATO.

The most famed military involvement of the enormous Turkish military, boasting the largest air force in NATO outside the United States, is the pernicious war against the Kurdistan Workers' Party, the PKK, that began in the early 1980's. The Turkish state and its affiliates wrecked immense destruction and committed a plethora of war crimes and crimes against humanity in southeastern Turkey. Turkey's close Western allies remain reluctant to openly admit it.

Reflecting the sheer scale of the campaign, the military effort has cost Turkey $450 billion, according to Yalçin Akdogan, a deputy of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP). Conveniently, Turkey has managed to label its criminal acts ‘counter-terrorism'.

However, a series of Ankara's recent tactical choices may have caused irreparable damage to Turkey's reputation. Much to the chagrin of the states vested in the so-called ‘war on terror', Turkey's actions might deliver a heavy blow to the credibility of the global counter-terrorism jargon. After all, those fighting terrorism embody liberty while the evil, oppressive terrorists reject it.

Turkey's PR blunder has been its policy towards the Syrian civil war and Islamic State (IS). In Syria, Turkey's support for Sunni Islamists has taken its toll on Turkey's global standing.

In its approach to leftist Kurdish political factions, Turkey has again chosen to prioritize its virulent opposition to Kurdish emancipation above all else. No rapprochement with Rojava, no tangible rapprochement with the PKK.

While a number of Turkish officials have contributed to the downfall of the country's image, let us take a closer look at statements made by Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the President of Turkey. In October, The New York Times quoted Erdogan as saying: “The P.K.K. and ISIS are the same for Turkey — It is wrong to view them differently. We need to deal with them jointly.”

Among the most potent political and military counter-forces to IS, the PKK and its allies have provided arguably the most efficacious ground forces in the multi-front war against the takfiri army. In terms of their socio-political agendas, the leftist Kurdish movement and the Sunni jihadists are each others most bitter enemies. Considering this, it is somewhat surprising that the Turkish head of state would risk losing all credibility with such remarks.

Equating the PKK and IS is but one of many rather remarkable statements uttered recently by Erdogan. What about gender equality? Erdogan:

“Our religion [Islam] has defined a position for women: motherhood — Some people can understand this, while others can't. You cannot explain this to feminists because they don't accept the concept of motherhood — You cannot make women work in the same jobs as men do, as in communist regimes. You cannot give them a shovel and tell them to do their work. This is against their delicate nature.”

Juxtapose these formulations with those by Abdullah Öcalan who heads the PKK:

“Women are — regarded as a valuable resource insofar as they produce offspring and provide the reproduction of men. Thus, woman is both a sexual object and a commodity. She is a tool for the preservation of male power and can at best advance to become an accessory of the patriarchal male society — Woman's slavery is the most profound and disguised social area where all types of slavery, oppression and colonization are realized.”

Not only are the positions of Erdogan and Öcalan quite different — one might reasonably pose the question: which party more resembles IS?

Describing Turkey as “one of the world's biggest prisons for journalists”, Reporters Without Borders ranked the country 154th in the World Press Freedom Index in 2014. But none of this slows Erdogan down. Only a couple of days ago the head of state declared: “Nowhere in Europe or in other countries is there a media that is as free as the press in Turkey”.

The PKK and Turkey have engaged in some dialogue to find out whether they could seal a diplomatic solution. The rise of IS and Turkey's extremely suspicious policies towards the Caliphate have jeopardized the fledgeling Turkey-PKK talks. The PKK leadership has informed Ankara that if Turkey allows the predominantly Kurdish city of Kobane to fall to IS, the PKK will put an end to the diplomatic process.

The EU, the US and NATO have all criminalized the PKK, labeling it “a terrorist organization” and constantly attacking its support networks. As is to be anticipated, this has contributed decisively to Turkey's war on Kurdish emancipation. Time will tell whether Turkey's recent statements — combined with the emergence of the PKK as a credible deterrent against IS and Jabhat al-Nusra and the fact that the PKK agenda is now better known in the West — will start changing public opinion in the EU and the US to the extent that Brussels and Washington will be compelled to change their collaborative Turkey policy.


The archive: Bruno Jäntti, Turkey, Syria, Middle East, Patrick Cockburn


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