AKP cannot have it both ways on terrorism
HDN | 5/12/2011 12:00:00 AM | SEMİH İDİZ
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan stood up once again for Hamas and said he did not consider them a terrorist organization.
Talking to Charlie Rose, the renowned American presenter of 60 Minutes, as well as other high profile current affairs shows on US TV, earlier this week, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan stood up once again for Hamas and said he did not consider it a terrorist organization.
“Let me give you a very clear message, I do not see Hamas as a terror organization. Hamas is a political party, it emerged as a political party that appeared as a political party. It is a resistance movement trying to protect its country under occupation," Erdoğan was quoted by the international media as telling Rose.
Erdoğan reportedly went on to add, “The world should not mix terrorist organizations with such an organization” indicating that that Hamas "won the elections, they had ministers, and they had parliament speakers who were imprisoned by Israel." He also indicated that it would be disrespectful towards the will of the Palestinian people to call Hamas a “terrorist organization.”
None of this is news of course Erdoğan has said it before. All it shows is that he is determined to stick to his guns on this organization, as well as Israel. Come what may.
Looked at from an “absolute” perspective, it is clear there is something to his argument, which will carry the day as far as many people around the world are concerned, and particularly among rabidly anti-Israeli and anti-western Islamists.
President Reagan reportedly said during the Sandinista-Contra debate, when America was supporting what many in the world saw as extreme right wing killers, “one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter.”
There is truth in this remark too, and it must be recalled that some of Israel’s founding fathers were “Irgun” or “Stern Gang” terrorists, and labeled as such by the power ruling Palestine at the time, namely the United Kingdom. This did not stop them from serving at the highest levels of the Israeli state in later years.
The fact is however, people who live in glass houses have to be more careful. What we are referring to here is of course the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, an organization that claims to be fighting for Kurdish rights and freedoms, but which is considered to be a terrorist organization by the Turkish state and government.
The simple fact is Erdoğan’s remarks are an open invitation to those inside and outside Turkey to say that labeling the PKK as a terrorist organization, which by any reasonable count it is, represents “a great disrespect to the will of the Kurdish people.”
The way this organization’s sympathizers come out in their tens of thousands to support it in total defiance of the authorities, on the other hand, shows that it has a popular base among the masses in Southeast Anatolia and elsewhere in Turkey.
Put another way, it is a dead certainty that if the PKK were to hypothetically be allowed to run in the elections on June 12, as Hamas was in 2006, then the bet is that it would sweep up the Kurdish vote in Turkey, and thus show it represents the will of the Kurdish people.
It must be recalled here that the pro-PKK Peace and Democracy Party, or BDP, also considers Abdullah Öcalan, the jailed head of the PKK, as the natural leader of the Kurdish movement for rights and freedoms, even though the United States and European Union consider him the head of a terrorist organization.
Erdoğan’s remarks also come at a sensitive time in Turkish-U.S. ties. In Washington, where I am presently as the guest of the Wilson Center and the Turkish Policy Quarterly, it is more than clear that his Hamas remarks have grated on nerves once again. Especially coming immediately after he accused Washington, among others, of not supporting Ankara sufficiently against the PKK, a remark, to which U.S. Ambassador Francis J. Ricciardione was quick to respond to as “meaningless.”
The U.S. are currently in a bullish mood having taken out “their public enemy number one,” Osama bin Laden, and clearly do not have much appetite for Mr. Erdoğan’s remarks. They also note that while President Abdullah Gül expressed great satisfaction over the killing of Bin Laden, Erdogan has not remarked once on the matter since the U.S. operation.
Naturally enough this is being interpreted as a “loaded silence,” which it is suggested, reveals some kind of dissatisfaction over the killing of bin Laden due to a sense of Islamic solidarity.
Other things being noted here in Washington, judging by the remarks of some of my interlocutors, is that the same Erdoğan who is quick to castigate Israel for brutalizing the Palestinians, is treading incredibly cautiously when it comes to Syria’s Bashar al-Assad, even though he is targeting civilians at the present time and brutalizing the leaders of the opposition he has in prison.
Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu recently explained Ankara’s muted approach to the events in Syria as “realpolitik,” which is totally understandable in international relations. But this immediately begs the question why Ankara does not have a similar “realpolitik” approach to Israel given that these relations meant something of value to both sides in the past.
The answer must be that what the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, is engaged in here is not “political realism” but simple “politicking” given that there is an acrimonious election campaign under way, during which Islamist masses have to be pandered to.
But this is what makes the AKP’s selective approach to terrorism much more dangerous for Turkey where some politicians still have not understood that you can not have your cake and eat it as well.