Fighting terror

Fighting terror

The families of police officers and members of the military are on a constant state of alert. Not a day passes by when a police officer or soldier does not fall as a martyr. The sorrow is shared by the whole nation but it is the families who suffer the most. 

The real target of the two barbaric explosions that took place on Saturday evening of Dec. 10 in Istanbul’s Beleştepe neighborhood, near Beşiktaş’s Vodafone Arena and Maçka Park was our police. May the souls of our martyrs, whose number has risen to 41, rest in peace. I pray for the speedy recovery of those wounded. 

It was magnificent that tens of thousands came to the site to protest terrorism after the attack, chanting “Martyrs don’t die.” We need this spirit. 

The outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) was founded in 1974 as a Stalinist and ethnic separatist terrorist organization, at a time when radical leftist winds were blowing in Turkey and across the world. While other leftist terror groups were gradually marginalized, the PKK strengthened, along with its reaction against the cruelties of the military regime after the Sept. 12, 1980 coup. 

Turkey has been fighting PKK terror for over 30 years, since the PKK attacks in the southeastern province of Siirt’s Eruh district and the southeastern province of Hakkari’s Şemdinli district in August 1984. 

The current government did not manage the collapsed peace process well and the PKK took advantage of it. What’s more, developments in Syria fueled the PKK’s dreams that it could “make a Syria out of Turkey.” 

After the June 7, 2015 general election, the PKK declared a “revolutionary people’s war” and said it had put an end to the peace process. The government, with some justification, launched an anti-PKK operation on July 25, 2015, since when operations have been ongoing. But terror is still continuing. 

İlker Başbuğ, Turkey’s former Chief of General Staff, has frequently used the phrase “asymmetric war” in his books and speeches. Turkey has a strong army, it has a good security apparatus, yet its members are still being killed. It remains hard to discern who is a terrorist, where they are, and what they might do. Of course, many terror acts have been prevented through intelligence, but those that have not been prevented are enough to cause much death and destruction. 

The lives lost are the most important aspect of the problem. But the image of a “country with a growing security risk” is also damaging the economy. 

The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and other jihadist terrorist networks, as French terrorism expert Professor Olivier Roy has stated, are “nihilists,” who stage their massacres regardless of who will die. 

The PKK, on the other hand, by primarily attacking the military and the police, has a “political” motive. It is trying to be recognized as an “armed political organization.”

In order to make Western opinion leaders, academics, civilians, and government officials accept the reality that “the PKK is a terrorist network,” we must strengthen the image that Turkey is a democratic state run by the rule of law, victimized by terror attacks. Only that will put a stop to increasing criticisms.  

Yes, it is tempting to indulge in discourse claiming that “the West hates us” or “we have to fight the whole world,” but we must think about the political effects of this. Such discourse showing the entire West siding with the PKK against Turkey could even be politically exploited by the PKK itself.

The Islamophobic and anti-Turkish extreme right-wing movements rising in the West all frustrate social democrats, liberals, greens, intellectuals and the mainstream media in those countries. 

The quality of democracy in Turkey should be raised in order for strong relations to be formed with these counterparts and for their support to be obtained. We were able to do this successfully until four or five years ago.  

Today, unfortunately, the government’s recent constitutional proposal gives little hope of elevating the quality of our democracy. 

Terror is an enemy fed by Turkey’s tough geography. We have to think of all its aspects and find ways to increase our friends both domestically and internationally.