But there are good terrorists and bad terrorists

But there are good terrorists and bad terrorists

In his speeches to Turkish audiences but addressing world leaders, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan often says that “there should be no good terrorists and bad terrorists” and that “terrorists are terrorists.” He’s right. But he is not realistic at all if he is seriously expecting the entire world to agree on his own definition of who is a terrorist and who is not. 

Mr. Erdoğan’s all-too-powerful but bizarre belief that anyone who does not fiercely agree with him on everything all the time must be an enemy, traitor, terrorist or a combination of all three is not healthy, to put it mildly. 

He does not hide his firm belief that the prominent journalists Can Dündar and Erdem Gül, who ran a story on their newspaper’s front page, or the four academics who, along with more than a thousand others, signed a pro-peace (but subjective) petition are terrorists who deserve life sentences. He wants them to stand trial under detention: guilty without trial.  

The president believes that the Kurds who want to carve out a Kurdish region in northern Syria, too, are terrorists. The Kurds who already have their autonomous region in northern Iraq and publicly speak of regional re-mapping (so as to create a homeland for the Kurds) are not terrorists. 

President Erdoğan has every liberty to believe that Hamas, whose charter vows death, is a legitimate political party. And so is the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. The latter is viewed as a terrorist organization by the Egyptian government and the former by the European Union despite legal challenges Hamas has put forward.

The United States, Canada, Israel and Jordan have outlawed Hamas. Egypt, Japan, Britain and Australia have banned its military wing. Regional rivals Russia, Iran and Turkey, ironically, have a common position in not regarding Hamas as a terrorist group (Russia, because of its Iranian/Shiite engagement; Iran, because of “the common enemy” and Turkey, because of Sunni Islamism).  

Hizb ut-Tahrir, a gathering of Islamists who are fighting to re-establish the Islamic caliphate and Sharia rule, is on the terror group list in Russia and (brotherly Turkic) Kazakhstan but recently held a high-profile meeting in the heart of Ankara.  

The armed and/or potentially violent groups on anyone’s “my terrorist/your freedom fighter” list can be multiplied endlessly on a global scale. But let’s leave that job to international terrorism experts. All the same, there must be a reason why President Erdoğan, who is so keen on consistency in defining terrorists and on keeping “terrorist/spy” journalists and “terrorist” academics behind bars without a verdict, should explain why he has not said a word when a Turkish court recently released all seven suspects, including the alleged chief of Turkish operatives, belonging to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).  

The indictment against the ISIL men, along with nearly 90 others who also enjoy freedom in Turkey, claims they “engaged in the activities of the terrorist organization called DAESH [Arabic acronym of ISIL]. The suspects had sent persons to the conflict zones; applied pressure, force, violence and threats by using the name of the terrorist organization, and provided members and logistic support for the group.” Good terrorists? Good for them. 

Prominent Hurriyet columnist Ahmet Hakan recently mentioned a documentary on state broadcaster, TRT. The interviewer asks a little Syrian girl: “What would you do if you had to fight?” And she answers: “I would blow myself up at a checkpoint.”  

Under criticism that the documentary may be encouraging suicide bombers, TRT defended itself: “In documentaries there is no fiction; facts cannot be twisted.” And in his column, Mr. Hakan asked TRT: “Would you broadcast a documentary in which a Kurdish militant says, ‘I’d blow myself up’ since ‘in documentaries there is no fiction; facts cannot be twisted?’” 

Mr. Erdoğan is right. There should be no good terrorists and bad terrorists; all terrorists are terrorists.