Are we at war or not?

Are we at war or not?

As a citizen of Turkey (a Sunni-Turkish, Muslim believer by conviction, if you were wondering), I need to know whether my country is at war with another state. I wonder whether we are expected to fight in Syria alongside Turkmens because of “ethnic affinity.” Or whether we are supposed to comply with our government’s commitment to depose Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime and join those fighting against al-Assad in Syria. Finally, we should know whether we are at war with Russia, which supports the al-Assad regime.

Last week, a Turkish citizen was killed in Syria while fighting alongside Turkmens. He was the vice head of the Nationalist Movement Party’s (MHP) Fatih district office in Istanbul, İbrahim Kücük. Another member of the MHP, Alpaslan Çelik, who was also fighting with Turkmens in Syria and who was among those who killed a Russian pilot after Turkey shot down a Russian jet in November last year, participated in Kücük’s funeral ceremony. Çelik seemed to be very friendly with a number of prominent members of the nationalist party. After the funeral, he felt free to report to journalists that he was coming and going to Syria as he wished; he had come for the funeral and would be returning to Syria to fight. Aside from the complexity and controversy of the whole situation, as far as I know it is a war crime to kill a pilot who was trying to survive by parachuting after his plane was shot down. I can’t know whether I am right or wrong, but nobody seems bothered that Russia could use this fact against Turkey.

Moreover, it seems that nobody (even the mainstream media) thinks it is strange for any country and its citizens to be involved in another country’s civil war without an official declaration of war. This was also true for Kurdish citizens of Turkey demanding free passage to Syria to fight with their Kurdish brothers and sisters. Indeed, it is not a problem of legality and legitimacy only for the Turkish state and Kurdish politicians. After all, Western states and their regional allies did not bother about these questions over arming the so-called opposition fighting against the al-Assad regime, nor did Iran and its allies joining the fight alongside Syrian regime forces. That is why Syria ended up as such a tragedy.

I’m not someone who is convinced by the “legitimacy” arguments for “humanistic interventionism” in places ranging from Afghanistan to Iraq, Libya and Syria. I have always been a staunch supporter of diplomatic solutions and peace-building by negotiation. At the end of day, at least the Western camp has shifted its strategy on Syria and seems to support consensus politics, especially after the recent correct decision of rapprochement with Iran. Turkey, however, continues to insist on the politics of a regime change, by force if necessary, and continues to hinder peace efforts. At this point, my country runs the risk of entering an open war if it continues to support confrontations in Syria. I have always opposed our government’s policy concerning Syria, but now it is more than a matter of political or humanistic principles; my country faces the danger of sliding toward war. What’s more, Kurdish politics do not help the supporters of peace at home and abroad. The outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party’s (PKK) politics of armed insurrection further complicates matters by legitimizing authoritarianism at home and delegitimizing the Democratic Union Party’s (PYD) regional role for a peaceful resolution.  

In short, I am very concerned by the possibility of the Syrian war spilling over into Turkey and think it will not play well for Turkey or the Kurds, who are fighting for a political status in the region.