Whom is Turkey fighting against?

Whom is Turkey fighting against?

Turkey’s “struggle with ISIL” has turned out to be an armed struggle with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), a domestic offensive against the Kurdish party, the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), a general witch hunt against dissent and finally a search for a homeland for Turkmens in northern Syria.

So far, so bad!

Now, it is no secret that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his governing party supposedly joined the Western alliance in the effort to fight the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) due to Western pressure and used the opportunity to crush the PKK in northern Iraq. There is almost no mention of the struggle against ISIL, as AKP politicians only mention the evil of ISIL in passing, attacking PKK and the Kurdish party every day while their media targets Kurdish politicians all the time. Finally, the president has called Kurdish party members to be stripped of their parliamentary immunity. At the same time, the governing party and media is trying to silence dissent by accusing all sorts of dissenters that they are committing the crime of “cooperating and conspiring with Kurdish terrorists.” Some pro-governing party media’s hitmen and hitwomen have targeted the biggest media group and individuals directly and unashamedly intimidated them, demanding that they be persecuted by “state powers.”

What we see is not much a struggle with ISIL, but a grand offensive against dissent along with regression to armed confrontation with the PKK and the consequent politics of war. Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu makes calls for people to “kill and die for the motherland,” refers to power, the will and finally “the omnipotence of the state.” Under the circumstances, we have started to regret that our government joined “the fight with ISIL;” perhaps we would have been better off without “the struggle with ISIL,” which is not a “struggle with terror,” but has become a very useful tool to terrorize the whole country. 

As for Turkey’s participation in the Western alliance, we have not heard much, even if they now have joined.

On the contrary, the governing bloc seems to be embarrassed to be in the same camp with the West and does everything to hide it from the public. Turkey’s Western allies may be concerned that the governing party is using the opportunity to “legitimize” the armed offensive against the PKK. No need to worry, since the president and his party no longer see their Western allies as a legitimizing force and leverage, but quite to the contrary, they see their relations with the Western alliance as something to be embarrassed about and concealed. So much so that the so-called “struggle with ISIL” is being legitimized by portraying ISIL as the “product” and even as “a plot of the West against Islam.” In the end, it has emerged that Turkey is not fighting against a threat to all, but fighting against a conspiracy of the West.

Finally, the Turkmens of northern Syria have come to the fore; pro-government media is presenting the whole affair as the organization of a Turkmen military force and are arranging the “security zone” not only as an “ISIL-free” zone, but more importantly, as a “Kurdish-free” zone as a place for Turkmens. 

Pro-government Islamist media have proudly announced the good news that Turkey’s National Intelligence Organization (MİT) held a meeting with the representatives of 20 Turkmen brigades fighting against ISIL and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad (July 28, Yeni Şafak). The pro-government head of the “Syrian Turkmen Assembly,” Abdulrahman Mustafa emphasizes that “ISIL is not the only enemy” and mentions more about the “threat of the YPG and Kurdification of the region.” The same newspaper claims (with reference to al-Jazeera) that moderate opposition but mostly Turkmens will be settled in the “security zone” in northern Syria (Aug. 1, Yeni Şafak). Another pro-government paper, Sabah, portrays the plan for a security zone as a great help for Turkmens and claims that Turkmens have demanded the extension of the zone to Aleppo (July 29). 

As such, we see that Turkey is fighting ISIL and the People’s Defense Units (YPG) in northern Syria for its Turkish relatives and their security and also to be able to secure an open door to help moderates fighting al-Assad, more than anything else.

This is the story of Turkish government’s decision to join the fight against ISIL. Indeed, the Turkish government is involved in a great fight, but the question is, whom is it really fighting against and what are they really fighting for?