Someone’s terrorist is another’s…

Someone’s terrorist is another’s…

It’s one of the most manifest collective hypocrisies modern politics has ever created: Someone’s terrorist is another’s freedom fighter (one can always replace “freedom fighter” with any other noble wording). But there is always a habitual commonality regardless of who accuses and who is accused that both the accused and the accuser have changed, are changing and will change roles depending on how dictated national interests determine who the terrorist is. 

Last week, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan asked the U.S. administration a very clear question in language a five-year-old could understand: “Am I your partner or are the terrorists in Kobane [your partner]?” He was referring to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party’s (PKK) Syrian franchise, the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) and its military wing, the People’s Protection Units (YPG). 

The answer to that simple question came from U.S. State Department spokesperson John Kirby, in language a five-year-old could understand, that the U.S. does not perceive the PYD as a terrorist organization. “Kurdish fighters have been some of the most successful in going after Daesh [the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant – ISIL] inside Syria,” he said. 

So, is Mr. Erdoğan the Americans’ partner or are the “terrorists in Kobane?” Offended, the Turks did the thing they know how to do best in times of crisis, recall their ambassador if the country is not too big to bite, or just summon its ambassador if it is. The disagreement over whether the PYD was a terrorist organization cost U.S. ambassador to Ankara John Bass a short round-trip to the Foreign Ministry. What happened at Balgat? In the official wording, “Turkey’s unease over the U.S. stance concerning the definition of the PYD and YPG has been clearly conveyed to the U.S. ambassador.” Good. 

So, Turkey is uneasy. And this was clearly conveyed to the U.S. ambassador. Now everyone can sigh with relief. But it’s not enough. There is also the miracle diplomatic word invented for unconvincing face-saving situations. Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said that “it’s not acceptable that the U.S. does not designate the PYD as a terrorist organization.” The miracle word is “unacceptable.” 

You only have to say that something is “unacceptable” and no one questions what else you can (or, in fact, cannot) do to correct that “unacceptable” thing. You have done your job by saying something is unacceptable, and that’s it. Mission accomplished. 

It is probably equally “unacceptable” for Ankara that its strategic partner, the U.S., does not arrest and extradite the trendier terrorist, Fethullah Gülen, or does not designate journalists Can Dündar and Erdem Gül as terrorists. Similarly the U.S. [and the European Union] may find it “unacceptable” that Turkey does not designate Hamas as a terrorist organization, or the Egyptian administration may find it “unacceptable” that Turkey supports the “terrorist” Muslim Brothers. 

But Çavuşoğlu’s claim that “it’s not rational for some countries to not regard the PYD as a terrorist organization when all countries were designating it as such” is deeply problematic. Which “all countries?” Have the United Nation, the EU and the rest of the world declared the PYD a terrorist organization and is the U.S. the only “irrational” country in the world? In fact at least two permanent members of the U.N. Security Council do NOT designate the PYD as a terrorist organization. 

But Çavuşoğlu also said something out of pure honesty, realism, rationality and verity. Addressing the U.S., he said: 

“But the snake will come tomorrow and bite you, too. Countries that have supported terrorist organizations have been hit by the same terrorist organizations.”

How true! Do we Turks not know it, when the tragic memories of the bombings in Suruç, Ankara and Istanbul are not yet things of the distant past?