Time for AKP to wake up to ISIL threat

Time for AKP to wake up to ISIL threat

The barbaric terrorist attack in Suruç, a Turkish town just 10 kilometers from the Syrian border, not only killed 31 innocent souls and wounded dozens of others. It also shook the nation, showing that the fire beyond our southern borders can easily burn us as well. It is time to think seriously about this threat and understand what its perpetrators really want. 

So far, nobody has claimed the attack and the suicide bomber(s) have not yet been identified. Yet it is almost consensus that it must be an Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL) job. The target was a group of secular, socialist Turkish youth, who had organized a humanitarian aid campaign to Kobane. 

They were also sympathetic to the Kurdish political movement in Turkey. The fact that this movement is at war with ISIL on the other side of the border and that the carnage is typical of ISIL is quite explanatory. It is also worth remembering that the bombing of a pro-Kurdish electoral rally in Diyarbakır just a few days before the June 7 elections proved to be the work of an ISIL militant. 

Naturally, every political figure condemned the terrorist attack. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, in a typical tone, also noted “Terror has no religion or race.” Such statements are so common in Turkey, but they are a little bit self-blinding. Terror might not have “a religion or race,” but it always has an ideology. And in the case of ISIL, this ideology is what is commonly called “Jihadi Salafism.” (There are other Jihadi Salafi groups, some fighting in Syria, who are not as extreme as ISIL but this is mainly a matter of degree, rather than kind.)

Now, even before getting into that, we need to address a practical question: What is the relationship between ISIL and Turkey’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) government? Some voices of the Turkish opposition have a simple answer: the AKP supports ISIL! It even created it! This is so obvious that you only have to be an AKP lackey to deny it.

I do not agree with this narrative, not because I do not have a love affair with the AKP (anymore), but because I am trying to be fair and objective. Indeed, we have ample proof that the AKP has supported various rebel groups in Syria from the beginning of the Syrian civil war. We have every reason to think that this support included arms and ammunition. 

Moreover, the recipients of this covert aid included some specific Jihadi Salafi groups such as Ahrar al-Sham, which is considered “moderate” when compared to ISIL and al-Nusra. But there is no clear evidence of planned, intentional Turkish support for ISIL. 

Yet, this does not mean that Ankara’s take on ISIL has not been worrying. First, the AKP government and its affiliates have underestimated the threat: Instead, there is a fixation on the Assad regime as “the real problem” in Syria and the tendency to see a “Kurdish state” in northern Syria as a bigger problem for Turkey. 

Moreover, the moderate Islamist AKP could not make itself face the extreme Islamist ideology of ISIL. (It is like moderate communists of the Cold War who could not accept that Stalin was a real butcher and a real communist.) The pro-AKP media has never addressed the ISIL ideology seriously and, rather, took a cheap shot at considering it a puppet of Western intelligence services. Just yesterday, a pundit in that media was telling why ISIL is nothing but a “subcontractor” of “Zionism.” 

With such willful blindness, the AKP is trapping itself in a delusion, at the expense of Turkey’s political wisdom and national security. It is time to wake up, see what ISIL really is, understand how it appeals to some young Muslims and take the necessary precautions.