Turkey’s Terrorist Bias. Part 1 (The State)

This is the first of two articles focusing on the bias in Turkey towards one militant group, Hamas, over another, the PKK.

The Turkish state and media have different, conflicting, attitudes towards the Kurdistan Workers party (PKK) and the Palestinian Hamas.

The famous quote “one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter” holds true as much today as it always has, especially, and absurdly, within Turkey.

In recent years the Turkish state’s relations with Israel have seen a gradual decline since the ascendency to power of the Islamist rooted Justice and Development Party (AKP Turkish acronym) in 2004. Alongside this deterioration of relations has arisen a bias in Turkey, both from the state and the media, in their approach to dealing with two militant groups that most countries recognize as terrorist organizations.

Hamas on the one hand, opposed to the existence of Israel, has fought a bloody war with that country since the 1990s, whilst the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) has been fighting Turkey since 1984, initially demanding a separate state for Turkey’s Kurds, but later changing their demands, calling instead for cultural and political rights for Kurds.

Elections and legitimacy

The AKP has taken a critical approach towards Israel on the Palestinian issue, increasingly so since the 2009 Israeli offensive on Gaza, as highlighted in the very public spat between Turkish PM Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Israeli President Shimon Peres at the World Economic Forum in Davos last year. Relations between the two countries have become so bad that Erdogan has started lobbying for the recognition of Hamas as a legitimate representative of the Palestinian people despite that organizations refusal to recognize Israel’s right to exist. Erdogan’s argument is that Hamas won the Palestinian Authority (PA) 2006 parliamentary elections and has the right to represent the Palestinians.

“Hamas entered the elections as a political party. If the whole world had given them the chance of becoming a political player, maybe they would not be in a situation like this after the elections that they won. The world has not respected the political will of the Palestinian people.”

argued Erdogan in an interview with Newsweek in January 2009.

Further still, the situation has worsened with the recent Gaza flotilla incident where 9 Turkish nationals were killed by Israeli commandos. As a result Erdogan and the AKP have taken an even harsher tone towards Israel with reference to Hamas, putting Turkish-Israeli relations at an unprecedented low.

“I do not think that Hamas is a terrorist organization…They are Palestinians in resistance, fighting for their own land,”

Erdogan has said. On the deaths of 9 Turks during the Gaza flotilla raid by Israel, Erdogan has said:

“This action, totally contrary to the principles of international law, is inhumane state terrorism”.

Taking Erdogan’s logic on why Hamas should be recognized on the grounds of winning the 2006 elections, it is possible to see a double standard in his argument. During the 2009 Turkish local elections the pro-Kurdish Democratic Society Party (DTP) put on a strong showing, gaining large support in the predominantly Kurdish areas of the country, only narrowly coming second to the AKP. Yet Erdogan and the AKP run government banned that party for being a “focal point of terrorism”, imprisoning dozens of its members and banning from politics for 5 years its top brass.

Erdogan had arrogantly hoped to win over most of the Kurdish areas after introducing cosmetic reforms, vowing that he would “take that castle” in reference to the largest Kurdish dominated city of Diyarbakir. AKP even went as far as to hand out free electronic appliances to Kurds to gain their votes. But once the DTP showed its strength, the state resorted to banning them. Incidentally the Kurds kept the castle with over 66% of the vote.

The DTP quickly reorganized under a new name, the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP), and again the Turkish state, and in some cases, ordinary Turks, have been hard at work harassing, intimidating and imprisoning its members, as well as trying to outlaw the BDP.

What is interesting to note in this parallel is how Israel did not intervene to prevent Hamas taking part in the 2006 PA elections, leaving the Palestinians instead to choose their own representatives. However, Israel had set conditions for holding peace talks with the Palestinians. One of them being, understandably, that Hamas cease aggression towards Israel as well as recognize Israel’s right to exist; something that Hamas has yet to agree to. Meanwhile, Turkey has, to date, refused to accept the PKK as a key player in solving the Kurdish question and has moved to ban any pro-Kurdish political party that shows any sign of factoring the PKK into a Kurdish solution.

And all this is despite a number of unilateral ceasefires declared by the PKK since the 1990s which Turkey has ignored, instead favoring a ‘surrender or die’ approach towards the PKK. Considering this, one could say that Israel and the PKK would make realistic negotiating partners for peace, in comparison to Hamas and Turkey and their ‘all or nothing’ attitudes.

State terrorism

Equally absurd is Turkey’s critique of Israel’s reaction and use of force, by labeling it “state terrorism”. Not that Israel is not famous for using heavy handed force which is rightly questionable and worrying, i.e. Gaza offensive 2009. But the absurdity, again, lies in the reality of Turkish politics and state policies.

Turkey reacts with the charge of “state terrorism” at Israel for boarding a ship and subduing hostile crew members, leaving 9 dead. But what of the continued oppression of the Kurds? The most shocking policy that Turkey has pursued in recent years has been the imprisonment of children under anti-terror laws. Children of 14 and 15 years of age are being imprisoned for throwing stones at Turkish police and chanting slogans in support of the PKK, a crime under Turkish anti-terror laws. Yet Turkey complains about Israel shooting violent activists that support Hamas.

Furthermore, for the past 6 years Turkey has routinely shelled and bombed the Kurdistan region of Iraq where the PKK has bases, and has launched numerous ground offensives into Iraqi Kurdistan, the latest being in 2008. Ironically, Turkey has done this in part with the use of Israeli bought unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). The result has been loss of civilian life, property and livestock. Iraqi Kurds, in those areas bombed and raided, are now displaced in their own country, too afraid to return to their villages because of Turkish heavy handed tactics.

This obvious double standard and contradictory attitude of the Turkish state raises a number of questions, such as; What is it that distinguishes Hamas so fundamentally from the PKK that Erdogan and Turkey feel the need to champion them? What is it the PKK is not doing that Hamas is doing? Could it be the extremist hard-line approach of calling for the destruction of Israel? or maybe the firing of rockets on Israeli civilian areas?

Additionally, what constitutes “state terrorism” to the Turks? The killing of 9 people on a ship heading towards a naval blockade? is the imprisonment of children, 14 or 15 years old just for throwing stones and shouting slogans, not state terrorism? taking away someone’s childhood because of mere sticks and stones, as well as words? What about the constant bombardment of neighboring countries, killing civilians, with the excuse of fighting ‘terrorism’?

Despite all this, what one could call hypocrisy, Turkey maintains its hostile stance towards Israel whilst conveniently ignoring its own domestic issues. They champion one militant group, Hamas, yet deny engaging their own home grown one, the PKK.

Well they have not totally ignored the domestic issues in relation to the recent flotilla incident. Turkish intelligence services are now suggesting there could be a link between Israel and the PKK’s actions. Maybe someone should remind them who it was that helped capture the leader of the PKK for Turkey in 1999.

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16 thoughts on “Turkey’s Terrorist Bias. Part 1 (The State)

  1. Bravo, AN! Thank you for this insightful inaugural posting. A pleasure having you on the Kurdistan Commentary team. Looking forward to more of your commentary.

  2. Thanks KB, the pleasure is all mine!

    nizaminz. Right ok, so do you have any comment on Turkey and the Kurdish question?

  3. Pingback: Global Voices in English » Kurdistance: The Hypocrisy of Defending Turkey

  4. Just tell me WHERE, aside the biased Israeli media or maybe FoxNews, have you read or listened or whatever, that the human right activists (for instance a brazilian film-maker and many european left MP’s) support Hamas or were even connected to Hamas? That simply destroys your argument.

    I believe that supporting Turkey’s role on this matter is different from agreeing with it’s internal policy. Turkey is no saint, the country makes Kurdish lifes a living hell and must be absolutely repudiated, but it’s impossible to deny that Turkkey had a major role on the Israeli action that was simpy the continuity of the ongoing genocide in Palestine.

    And, again, the Hamas thing is just Zionist propaganda.

  5. Erdogan wanted german goverment let the turkish pepole in germany to study with turkish even though he deny this right for kurds in kurdistan and the turkish goverment
    imprison dtp politicians who have been convicted because of speaking in kurdish

  6. there is difference, where israel wants peace and talk about how to devide our home country with the palastinians, the Hamas (read Iran) is against this.

    Turkey, Syria,Iran and Irak even does not want to talk let alone stop its occupation of Kurdistan

    Does the PKK ‘s aim is to destroy Turkey Syria Irak Iran?
    the answer is NO.
    Does the Hamas wants to destroy Israel?
    the answer is YES.

    Did Israel leave Gaza? –> YES
    Did Turkey leave any part of Kurdistan? –> NO

    Did the PKK sent rockets for year after year to a Turkeys town , like the Hamas does year after year to the town of Sedrot in Israel? (This even after Israel’s pullout of Gaza)

    Nice NATO member, Turkey… seems the Kurdish people pay the oil price for the West and the USA

  7. by the way to all, it was not israel behind the capture of Abdullah Ocelan.
    but the disinformation was succesfully spread by one of the western “allies”, wonder which country had interes in breaking the historical bond between the Kurdish people and us Israeli.

  8. @Rafiq:

    Sorry to completely disagree with you….

    You’re making comparisons that simply don’t work out…

    First of all, Curdistan can exist without destroying Turkey, it will just take a portion of the country leaving the “rest” to Turkey. In the palestinian case, tell me, how can Palestine existi divided and without any resources? Israel stole the land from the palestinians. Israel expelled thousands from their lands in order to create the Zionist state. So, Hamas pledge is the only one possible: Israel mus cease to exist in order to Palestine be created. A one state solution.

    Second, Israel left Gaza? Wht’s your concept of “leaving”? Yes, Israel maybe left the land of Gaza, bur instead now Gaza is a concentration camp just like Auschwitz… Is that ok? The don’t kill from inside, just from outside! Of starvationg and etc…

    Third, Israel trhow bombs everyday in Gaza and on the West Bank. They everyday make incursions to the palestinian territories. So why can’t Hamas respond? Only Israel is allowed to kill the palestinians but Hamas cannot defend their own people?

    Defending the Palestinian Genocide is not the answer.

  9. @nizaminz: Let’s say you’re correct and the Jews and Israelis control all world media and money. Then how come every time a Palestinian civilian is killed, it’s always newsworthy, but most people outside of the Middle East don’t even know what a Kurd is? If the Jews controlled everything, I’d think it should be the other way around, no?

    @Raphael Tsavkko: What resources? Israel has no oil. I don’t think anyone there does any mining. Gaza is on the Mediterranean sea, so they both have a sea port. Why can’t Hamas agree to the Arab Peace Initiative? (link here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arab_Peace_Initiative) and just try to take a portion of Israel, as the PKK do in Turkey?

  10. Pingback: While criticizing Israel, Turkey kills Kurds

  11. @Raphael Tsavkko:

    When you speak of a “Palestinian genocide”, which massive number of deaths are you talking about? The number of “Palestinians” is in fact increasing. There simply is no “Palestinian genocide” to defend. What can be defended is the fact that “Palestinians” are alive and well, certainly better off that they deserve and much better off than Kurds or the people of Darfur.

    Israel expelled very few Arabs from “their” land and only after the Arab attacks when it was clear that “Palestinians” would not defend their Jewish neighbours. The land Israel was founded on was Jewish land, legally bought and owned by Jews.

    Jews have lost almost everything they owned in the middle-east, except the land in Israel which they managed to defend. Jews used to own land in Egypt and Iraq (including Kurdistan) but all of it was taken by the Arabs. Twice as many Jewish refugees fled to Israel than Arab refugees from Israel. Where do you think those Jews should live?

    “Palestine” doesn’t exist divided or undivided. It was a creation of the British. There never was a “Palestinian people” and there never was a country named “Palestine”.

    There was a country named Philistia 2500 years ago but the inhabitants were not Arabs but Greek settlers. It is from that country that the Romans took the name “Palestine” which derives from the Hebrew for “invader land”. (The Greek settlers did not call themselves “invaders”, the Canaanites and Israelites called them such.) Do you really think there exists an Arab country named “invader land”? How?

    Israel does not “bomb Gaza every day”. But Gaza does bomb Israel every day. Shacher adom. Red dawn. If you hear those words in Israel you have 15 seconds to get into a bunker.

    Your one-state solution will simply add another Arab state to a region where the Arabs already rule over dozens of peoples whose lands they have once invaded and never gave back. Naming the newest addition to the empire “Palestine” (“Invader Land”) seems apt but I don’t see why this is a good solution (unless you like an Arab empire with no rights for non-Arabs).

    The Arab wars against Israel and Israel’s reactions have caused fewer deaths than any other conflict in the middle-east. And there are many. The Algerian Civil War caused three times as many deaths as the Arab war against Israel in a tenth of the time. The Arab war against Africans in Darfur caused six times as many deaths as the Arab war against Israel in a 20th of the time. And the Arab war against the Christians in southern Sudan really took the cake: 2.5 million dead, mostly Christian civilians.

    So stop telling people that the Jews “stole” the land they bought. That lie belongs in the European middle ages, before Jews could own land. And stop trying to tell people that Israel is the great evil and is committing genocide. It’s ridiculous. Israel must be the country with the greatest percentage of war criminals yet her enemies flourish and enjoyu a higher standard of living then neighbouring countries Israel is at peace with.

    Gaza is a concentration camp? Do you think concentration camps would have Internet access and mobile phones? Have you ever seen pictures from Gaza?

    I assume comparing Gaza with a “concentration camp” is not antisemitism and it is pure coincidence that you chose the term “concentration camp” which is related to those who, like Hamas and the PLO’s founders, wanted to exterminate the Jews.

    You want a concentration camp? Go no further than Darfur:

    http://web.mac.com/ajbrehm/Home/Blog/Entries/2010/6/5_The_Blockade.html

    I know several people from Darfur whose dream it is one day to live a life like the people in Gaza. So don’t tell me what’s going on in Gaza is “genocide” and don’t complain when the people of Gaza cannot import weapons or luxury goods only Hamas’ cronies can afford.

  12. Dear readers, I really appreciate your attention to my article and also your comments, but please can we not divert attention from the main topic of the article, that being Turkish hypocrisy?

    I initially chose not to reply to Raphael’s comment because it was irrelevant and totally missed the point of.

    The Israel-Arab issue is like a black hole which consumes the attention from all other political and human rights causes.

    My article neither condones the oppression of the Arabs by Israel, nor does it in anyway support hate towards Jews and Israel.

    In today’s world, I am disgusted that a country like Turkey can champion the cause of an oppressed people when they completely deny the rights of minorities within their own state. It sickens me even more that people give praise to Turkey in the process.

    The Kurdish struggle for equal rights and self-determination has had one enemy, more than any other, and that enemy is Turkey. Turkey HAS committed genocide, Turkey HAS killed more Kurds and minorities than probably all other countries in the Middle East, and Turkey today IS STILL not affording the Kurds and other minorities equal treatment and rights. The wolf has only put on sheep’s clothing and their oppression of my people is just as disgusting today as it always has.

    So please keep the attention on Turkey’s oppression of Kurds and Turkey’s moral deficiency. Don’t turn this into yet another platform for the Israel-Arab conflict which already consumes too much of the world’s attention.

  13. Yes, but isn’t that the general issue: the animosity of the ruling nations of the Middle-East (Turks, Arabs, Iranians) towards the other nations?

    The Arab-Israeli conflict is a “black hole” because those on the “anti-imperialist” side (meaning the side that thinks that Arabs and Turks should rule everyone) want it to be. In reality it is a minor part of the general conflict between big nations and small nations.

    Kurdistan enjoys tremendous sympathy in Israel. Kurds and Jews share a comon history. Major Jewish schools and settlements in the Middle-East were located in Kurdistan (in Mosul) and recent studies have even found a genetic connection. One of Iraqi Kurdistan’s most famous families has Jewish roots and the most famous female Jewish teacher of all time belonged to that family too.

    I have visited Iraqi Kurdistan myself. Unfortunately I couldn’t visit Mosul because the Arabs were hunting down Christians at the time so I figured a Jew shouldn’t get involved in “local customs”. But I did visit Arbil (I use the Semitic name out of habit), Kirkuk, and Suleimaniya.

    You can read about my experiences here:

    http://web.mac.com/ajbrehm/Home/Blog/Entries/2008/10/9_Erbil.html

    It’s a common strategy to divide and conquer, to keep one side divided. Kurds are told that they must oppose Jews and Israel because of “oppressed Arabs” (despite the fact that those “oppressed” Arabs have much much better lives than officially non-oppressed Kurds) and Israelis and Jews are told that they must side with Turkey against PKK terrorists, which apparently all Kurds are. It’s nonsense.

    Unless we want a Middle-East ruled by Turks and Arabs alone, with an extremist Islamic regime in Iran as the ultimate power behind those, we have to stand together. And “we” is the Jews, the Kurds, Lebanese Christians, Sudanese Africans, Somalilanders, Berbers and those Arabs who see the Arab nation as one of many rather than a special ruling class and those Turks who want a secular state with equal rights for all (even for Kurds).

    We must stand with ethnic and religious minorities, with the Christians, the Yezidis, the Zoroastrians, the Bahai, the Assyrians, the Alevites, and the Mandaeans.

    I am convinced that Kurdistan has a right to exist and that the Kurdish nation, forgotten by the “United Nations” have a right to a state. And I’ll do what I can to help Kurdistan. Because we already have have what the Kurds were never given and hence while non-Jews have an obligation to fight antisemitism I believe that non-Kurds have an obligation to speak out for Kurdish rights too.

  14. @AN: Agreed completely. The Arab-Israeli conflict has been used to take attention away from the actions of the Middle Eastern regimes too easily and for too long. Discussing it here instead of focusing on Kurdish issues takes the lime light away from the point and back to that already over-exposed conflict. It’s just difficult not to respond when falsehoods about it are brought up.

    Anyway, kudos on your blog and on your post!

  15. First off: Very good article. Kurds have for far too long become the victims of genocide and have been completely ignored by world media. And no one in the West will help them because Turkey produces them oil from occupied Kurdistan.

    Furthermore, (I am Israeli) i am also angered by the hypocrosy many (not all) in the Palestinian movement display. While the PKK only asks for a separate Kurdish state, even just Kurdish rights in Turkey, Hamas continues to demand Israel’s destruction.

    Nonetheless, pro-Palestinians act like that is HUMANE or REASONABLE, and people believe them. How can they talk about ending their genocide promoting one? There is no genocide committed against them anyway, all Arabs in Israel have rights.

    Kurds don’t want to exterminate the Turks and Arabs and Iranians in their land, despite the tragedies of the Al-Anfal Campaign (committed with weapons bought with American “aid”) and the ongoing genocide in the Mideast. They want a state, with equality for all except ISIS.

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