Beasts and freedom fighters

Beasts and freedom fighters

Terrorism is such a menace that no one can assume to have immunity of any sort. It is not like having influential “friends” at some key governmental or judicial posts to escape fraud of all sorts, the examples of which have been so abundant around the globe. When a beast decides to blow him or herself up, scores of innocent people totally unaware or unconnected to whatever cause the brute might believe they were serving fall prey, lose their lives or survive but carry a very heavy residue, the physical and emotional impacts of the heinous attack, for the rest of their lives.

Were the people in the Paris theater, the Brussels airport, Istanbul’s İstiklal Avenue or any of the three venues of Ankara’s deadly blasts responsible for anything for which they had to pay with their lives? No…

They were innocent victims of deadly beasts taking lives indiscriminately with the claim of serving either a “holy religious cause” or a contributing to the “struggle” of an ethnic minority. As long as this “your beast, my freedom fighter” hypocrisy continues, no effective international struggle might be waged against terrorism. Yet, what is the description of terrorism? Is it possible to accept the use of force as a legitimate tool in “defending” the rights and liberties of a group of people or at what point is the use of force no longer legitimate but an act of terrorism? Years ago while researching an article on terrorism I was shocked to come across 68 different descriptions of the menace. Why can’t the international community simply agree that, other than the official army and police of a state, and excluding “individual licensed possession of weapons,” there can be no armed group or community in a country? That, including state forces, no one can use lethal weapons on civilian populations? That any use of force on civilian populations in the name of promoting an ideology, be it religious, sectarian, ethnic or other such discriminatory cause, must be categorically banned?

Naturally, countries should act in awareness that they cannot use terrorists as an alibi to terrorize society.

They must always remain within limits of law and respect norms and values of democracy in fighting terrorism. That is, governments must avoid state terrorism while fighting terrorism.

Why I asked all these questions must be crystal clear in view of the appalling situation in Turkey nowadays. It is the fundamental duty of any state to protect its citizens against all threats and that includes excessive use of force by government forces. Members of the government and the president himself - who has started stressing that Turkey has become a de facto semi-presidential country - confess that for the sake of the so-called Kurdish opening they instructed governors to turn their heads away from separatists, not to see the arms stockpiled in their cities. Now, since the June 2015 election, the same government, probably as an instrument to woo the nationalist vote as Kurds parted from the ruling party long ago, have been staging operations on the very same “terrorists” they were instructing during the three years of the failed opening.

In doing so, unfortunately, towns have been flattened and immense tragedies have been compelled on civilian populations.

Obviously there are different opinions on this issue. Some defend the government’s actions, while those who point at human rights complications demand a halt. Why are those who demand a halt considered to be abetting terrorists while those who confess in the first place to have abetted terrorists now become the new “saviors?” Tragicomedy, I would say and stress it should not be a coincidence that the ancient people of this land were the first to introduce tragicomedies to global literature treasure.

Respecting the right to speak or the freedom of expression is a hallmark of democratic governance. What’s written in a petition might not be shared at all, but a respectable person must be able to defend the right to petition. A journalist might have committed something utterly wrong a while ago. Perhaps he even went to the extent of insisting on such wrong attitudes. He might have even collaborated in an opportunistic manner with a religious clan which was also very much involved in wrong. If that journalist is now subjected to a gross violation by the political authority, can anyone refusing to lend support be considered doing sufficiently what they as a democrat are expected to undertake?

If there was a tent in a Brussels square and if some people were using that tent to promote some ideas or slogans that this writer or some readers would deplore, condemn and even abhor, can it be possible Belgium deserved the multiple suicide attacks because it did not act firm enough on terrorism? The right to express, which includes erecting such tents in Brussels, London, Ankara, Istanbul or elsewhere that claims to be a democracy, is the backbone of human progress. Curtailing freedom of speech for the sake of better security can only make cities more insecure.

Has Turkey become a more secure place with all those security measures but stringent restrictions of freedom of expression? Silencing social media and curbing access to the Internet after every security threat only exacerbates the feeling of insecurity. The state cannot achieve security with lofty statements but by addressing the root causes of threats, coming up with solutions to problems and of course developing adequate intelligence capabilities.

Before pointing at others and claiming they were collaborating with terrorists and deserved worse than what happened to them, we should for one second think about how we were dealing yesterday with the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) or Kurdish terrorists. Is it not difficult to differentiate between beasts and freedom fighters?