Sympathy for the devil that is ISIL

Sympathy for the devil that is ISIL

In a tiny village overlooking the Syrian border in Şanlıurfa, little children play with dogs and chickens, mothers do their laundry and men go to work in nearby Birecik.

But the village of Ziyaret has a very famous neighbor. Upon the hill that overlooks it hangs the flag of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), outside a large building that used to be a house. Next to it are bunkers and tents. Villagers tell stories of ISIL militants coming in the evenings, shooting at livestock, screaming “Allahu Akbar” and then firing randomly.

Such proximity cannot develop overnight. Turkey’s borders have seen a buildup of ISIL militants. On Wednesday, while Chief of Army Gen. Hulusi Akar was visiting the barracks of the border posts and critical positions overlooking Kobane, we could all hear the shelling of ISIL’s cannons.

The Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) policies of “sympathy for the devil” have brought ISIL to Turkey’s door. Now Turkey is a NATO country that has “diplomatically and politically” dealt with ISIL, accepting it as a neighbor - all for the sake of toppling Bashar al-Assad and curbing the influence of Kurds in Rojava.

The feelings of the AKP’s heavyweights are not limited to Ankara. I was shocked to hear words of admiration for ISIL from some high-level civil servants even in Şanlıurfa.

“They are like us, fighting against seven great powers in the War of Independence,” one said.

“Rather than the [Kurdistan Workers' Party] PKK on the other side, I would rather have ISIL as a neighbor,” said another.

These are appalling statements from state officials using our tax money to pay for the healthcare of butchers. Turkey’s government is widely seen as the “sponsor” of ISIL in the international arena. And unlike Qatar, Ankara is doing nothing to deny this. For the AKP, it is almost a badge of honor.

The residents of Suruç tell stories of trains carrying Russian-made cannons and heavy weaponry into ISIL territory in Syria. Kurds in the southeast are so bitter and angry with Turkey that senior PKK leader Murat Karayılan’s statements about the "end of the peace process" are no surprise here in Suruç, where 55 percent of residents voted for Erdoğan in the Aug. 10 presidential election.

“This is not just our problem. ISIL is Istanbul’s and İzmir’s problem as well. If you in the west do not do something about this, we really are going to break up,” one young woman told me during protests last weekend.

Kurds are fleeing the region. Even those entering from Kobane are not remaining in the tent cities. Villages are gearing up for a long war.

Sympathy for the devil comes at a high price. It may help you win elections, but this time it looks like forces inside and outside Turkey will result in us losing both territory and human lives.