I was strolling in Istanbul’s Taksim square the other day till I came across a group of protestors yelling, “No to war!” Heading under the banners of the People’s Republican Party (CHP), Turkey’s main opposition, this was a colorful group of Kemalists, secular nationalists and old fashioned communists. With fists in the air, they were protesting the “war scheme” of the governing Justice and Development Party (AKP). Their posters condemned the Tayyip Erdoğan government as an “American puppet” and “subcontractor of Obama.”
All in all, this was a very self-righteous group. As the promoters of “peace,” they apparently saw themselves on the moral side of history. In my view, however, they were tragically wrong. They, in fact, were disturbingly immoral.
Here is why: These protestors in question, who passionately protest the Turkish government’s hardening on the Syrian regime, have never condemned the atrocities of the same regime. The thugs of Bashar Assad have bombed entire cities, slaughtered clans and families, and tortured women and children. But they never spoke against that. They rather condemned the AKP government, “the Islamists,” the NATO, “the CIA,” and other popular figures of Turkey’s wildly insane yet madly popular conspiracy theories.
This reminds me of the mid 90’s, when similar “peace activists” opposed the bombing of Serbian Chetniks, the bloodthirsty murderers who were busy with raping, torturing and slaughtering the Bosnian Muslims. When NATO, in a tragically-belated operation, finally bombed Serbian targets in 1995, the same “peace activists” rallied the streets to condemn “American imperialism.” Their “peace-lovingness” also had led them to impose an arms embargo on former Yugoslavia, with the practical result of leaving the Bosnians defenseless against a colossal Serbian war machine. With their apparent pacifism, in other words, these activists had only become implicit supporters of slaughter.
The arguments we hear these days from Turkey’s “peace activists” are similarly foul. They keep on defending “Syria’s sovereignty,” which basically means that all tyrants should have the right to slaughter their own populations while the world should not “interfere” in their “domestic affairs.” Or they condemn the Syrian opposition for including “foreign fighters,” while the communists among them are hypocritically proud of the Spanish Civil War (1936-39), in which their comrades from all over the world united to fight Franco’s fascism. (Foreign fighters are heroes only when they are Marxists, in other words, but they are evil when they are Islamists.)
Kurdophobia, as one the main pillars of Kemalism, is also at play here. For most opponents of the AKP policy on Syria condemn the “Kurdish entity” that is emerging in Turkey’s south. As in their stance against Iraqi Kurdistan, they see any Kurdish presence on earth as a danger to Turkey, whereas the AKP sees Kurds as potential friends and considers only the PKK
(the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party, a terrorist group) as enemy.
None of this means that Turkey should launch a war against the Syrian regime, which is not the intention of the Turkish government anyway, as Prime Minister Tayyip Erdoğan openly said. But Turkey is, and will remain as, a strong supporter of the Syrian opposition, and will continue to retaliate against possible acts of aggression from the Syrian regime. The motion passed this Thursday in the Turkish Parliament, which gives the government a one-year mandate authorizing the military to use ground troops for cross-border military operations into Syria, only underlines Ankara’s determination.
Despite my growing disillusionment with the AKP’s domestic policies, I am solidly in favor of this “hawkish” policy on Syria. For I believe that we Turks bear a moral responsibility to our Syrian neighbors, who are suffering horribly to get the freedom they deserve. We cannot forsake them to please the delusions of our mindless “peace activists.”