Violence in Turkey according to Obama

Violence in Turkey according to Obama

U.S. President Barack Obama touched on a number of burning international issues in his address to the United Nations General Assembly on Sept. 25.

As the sitting president hoping for re-election, it was courageous for him to both condemn a video that has outraged Muslims all around the world as ‘disgusting’ and also underline that it was out of question to put a ban on it due to the framework of freedom of speech. He was frank as he gave a personal example as illustration for his reasoning. “I accept that people are going to call me awful things every day and I will always defend their right to do so,” he said. It is a good quote to be recalled later on.

Obama also condemned terrorism and violence making the lives of millions hellish. Among the examples he gave was: “a Turkish police officer was murdered in Istanbul only days before his wedding.” The Turkish press highlighted and polished this part of the speech, touting it as a sign of Barack’s acknowledgement of the sufferings of Turkish people. Both the Turkish government and the Turkish people felt sorry for the murder of Chris Stevens, the U.S. Ambassador to Tripoli, and three other U.S. officers in Libya by Islamist militants. The young police officer killed in Istanbul was Bülent Özkan, who lost his life while trying to prevent a suicide bomber from entering a regional police station. The suicide bomber blew himself up with Özkan when he was unable to get inside the police station. The attacker was announced by Istanbul police as a renown member of a left wing Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party/Front (DHKP/C) having a record of similar attacks before.

It was interesting for Obama to pick this incident among many others in Turkey. There were others you can be sure. For example in another bomb attack near another police station in the downtown of the Syrian border city of Gaziantep, nine people, including children were killed. The outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) is believed to be behind the attack, which is similar to many others.

According to the Chief of General Staff Gen. Necdet Özel, 427 PKK members and 110 soldiers or policemen were killed in attacks by the PKK and clashes in between since the beginning of this year. In an interview with daily Türkiye, Özal said that Turkey gets only a limited amount of anti-terrorist intelligence from the U.S.

The PKK, which has been condemned by the U.S. government as a terrorist organization, has been waging an armed campaign for an independent Kurdish state carved out of Turkey, Iran, Iraq and Syria for the last three decades, with more than 40,000 lives lost so far. So, it was interesting for Obama to single out one isolated attack to show as an example of extremist violence in Turkey that is not a part of the PKK’s campaign. Was that purely coincidental? Or was it because Obama doesn’t see PKK actions as a part of ‘extremist’ violence? Or was it because he considered the PKK problem to be a part of the Kurdish problem in a totally different, political context and he did not want to touch it? Those are the questions that we need to find answers to.

The issue is critical for Prime Minister Tayyip Erdoğan as his Justice Minister Sadullah Ergin has implied new talks with the PKK amid a tense atmosphere.