It’s already been a week since 31 Turkish truck drivers were kidnapped and today will mark the seventh day of the abduction of 49 Turkish citizens, including its Mosul consul-general, by the brutal jihadist organization, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
Our sincere hope is for the immediate and safe release of all 80 Turkish citizens in a bid to end this tense waiting for the abductees’ families and the entire nation. At this stage, blame games have no use. All of our priorities should be for the return of our citizens to home without a single injury.
Although the government spokesperson, Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç, and a number of other government officials are trying to downplay the incident, what we have been passing through since last week is in fact one of Turkey’s most significant foreign policy crises.
Immediately after the crisis broke June 11, Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu
cut his trip to New York short, returned to Ankara
and led governmental efforts for the release of the Turkish citizens. A crisis desk was established with a call center running 24 hours. The estimated number of Turkish citizens in this country who have relatives in different parts of Iraq are estimated at 125,000.
One other positive thing is the regular press conferences by Deputy Foreign Minister Naci Koru to provide sound and fast information about developments in Iraq and obviously about the hostage crisis. But a contradictory thing also happened yesterday, as the government’s media watchdog issued a ban on reporting and broadcasting about the hostage crisis, meaning that it’s going to be difficult for the media to cover developments.
In the first days of the incidents, we were hearing positive news from officials on immediate releases of kidnapped citizens. On June 12, this information was also diffused to some other countries who have been involved with developments in Iraq.
From Turkish officials’ statements, we know that our kidnapped citizens are in good shape and our intelligence knows where they are being kept. They have not been treated badly and there are not any sorts of health problems for any of them. Another thing we know, again from the information given by officials, is that those who kidnapped Turks are not demanding anything in return for their release. So we understand there is no bargaining between Turkey and ISIL officials.
At this point, there is one question left to be posed: Why are these 80 Turkish citizens still not being released? Is ISIL planning to use them as human shields against a military air strike? Or is it planning to introduce them as a trump card against a potential Turkish action in the region? Or do they want to use them in future bargains, not only with Turkey, but with other countries? These pending questions are sour and not nice to hear, but they are legitimate.
In the meantime, it’s very important that Davutoğlu will fly to Saudi Arabia today for an unscheduled visit. It’s our sincere hope that he will return with sound answers to these questions and with good news for the release of the kidnapped Turkish citizens.