Categorized | Turkey

Dark Affairs Across Turkey’s Border

Family and friends mourn Shervan Muslim, the son of Saleh Muslim, in Kobani, Oct. 10, 2013. He died as result of gunfire by an al-Qaeda extension near Tel Abyad, while his father was abroad making contacts for Syrian Kurds. (photo by Facebook/Kurd.Britain)
By: Cengiz Candar

Poet-author Bijan Matour tweeted the other day, “The martyrdom of [Democratic Union Party (PYD) head] Saleh Muslim’s son is proof of the dignity of the resistance at Rojava. Everyone is at the front lines and all are fighting for their land.”

This sad testimony of dignity is the death of Shervan Muslim, the son of Saleh Muslim. He died as result of gunfire by an al-Qaeda extension near Tel Abyad, while his father was abroad making contacts for Syrian Kurds.

Saleh Muslim hails from Kobani [in northern Syria], a bit west of the location where he lost his son, just opposite the Turkish region of Suruc-Mursitpinar. I remember that when I asked Saleh Muslim where he was from, he responded, “Urfa” [a Turkish border province], instead of Kobani. He was right. Kobani is as close to Urfa as Suruc. The nearest place you can call a town near Kobani is Urfa.

Shervan Muslim was buried two days ago in Kobani. Officials of Turkey’s pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP), some of their members of parliament, and Democratic Society Congress members were there to offer their condolences. Saleh Muslim, however, being far from Syria, could not make it to the funeral in time.

Saleh Muslim has been constantly complaining that those attacking the Kurds were coming from abroad via Turkish soil. His son was killed on the eve of the Eid al-Adha holiday in such an attack. The sad event was full of symbolism.

For example, condolences for Shervan Muslim reflected the human, political and organizational affinity of the Kurds of Turkey and Syria. Aren’t the BDP and the PYD twin organizations, only separated by a railroad track that marks the Turkey-Syria border?

Shervan Muslim died to defend the land he lived on and for which he had dreams. Those who killed him are not from that land but were transported there. More than half of the members of the al-Qaeda-affiliated Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) are from the Caucasus, the Asian subcontinent and Yemen. They came for jihad right on the Turkish border. Other al-Qaeda derivative outfits, like Jabhat al-Nusra, Ahrar al-Sham and the moderate Salafist Liwa al-Tawhid have no [personal attachment to] Rojava. They are not there to defend their own land.

Turkish officials consistently deny that Turkey is providing assistance or logistical support to pro-al-Qaeda groups, but I think only they believe their denials.

Amberin Zaman spoke with victims being treated at Ceylanpinar Public Hospital and wrote about it in the daily Taraf and The Economist. The Turkish daily Radikal published front-page accounts of those joining such groups from Turkey. The latest was Ridvan Akar’s interviews on CNN Turk with families whose sons have been taken to Syria from Turkey. Is the Turkish state unaware of this? Can’t they prevent it?

Actually, there is not a question of “impotency” or an “inability” to prevent [such from happening]. There is support that some officials in Ankara are slowly beginning to regret. Ankara’s assistance to al-Qaeda-affiliated or Salafist activities is becoming one of the serious disagreements — albeit invisible — between the United States and Turkey. This issue was raised at the May 16 White House meeting between President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. In that restricted gathering, only Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu and intelligence chief Hakan Fidan were with Erdogan.

Last week, a long article ostensibly about Hakan Fidan and authored by Adam Entous and Joe Parkinson appeared in The Wall Street Journal. You can immediately see that that the authors were well-briefed about what was discussed at the White House and that they had contacts with Turkish officials and Syrian opposition leaders. The most striking comment about the article was from Radikal’s Murat Yetkin, who wrote, “The White House might have wanted to send a message without directly targeting Erdogan by using Fidan, who it saw as a less troublesome target.” The following extracts from the WSJ article can give a better idea:

“At the White House meeting, the Turks pushed back at the suggestion that they were aiding radicals and sought to enlist the US to aggressively arm the opposition…”

“More recently, Turkey’s Syria approach, carried out by Mr. Fidan, has put it at odds with the US. Both countries want Mr. Assad gone. But Turkish officials have told the Americans they see an aggressive international arming effort as the best way. The cautious US approach reflects the priority it places on ensuring that arms don’t go to jihadist groups that many US officials see as a bigger threat to American interests than Mr. Assad.”

The following passages are particularly noteworthy:

“Mr. Erdogan wanted to remove Mr. Assad not only to replace a hostile regime on Turkey’s borders but also to scuttle the prospect of a Kurdish state emerging from Syria’s oil-rich northeast, political analysts say.

“Providing aid through the MIT [Milli Istihbarat Teskilati, Turkey’s national-intelligence apparatus], a decision that came in early 2012, ensured Mr. Erdogan’s office had control over the effort and that it would be relatively invisible, say current and former US officials.

“Syrian opposition leaders, American officials and Middle Eastern diplomats who worked with Mr. Fidan say the MIT acted like a ‘traffic cop’ that arranged weapons drops and let convoys through checkpoints along Turkey’s 565-mile border with Syria.”

It is not hard to understand that the Erdogan government or the state cannot anymore conceal their support for certain elements, which are also becoming security threats to Turkey. True, you cannot explain Washington dragging its feet to help the Syrian opposition only as a reaction to Turkey’s support for al-Qaeda derivative outfits fighting the Kurds, but no doubt this “bizarre and perilous relationship” pursued by Turkey is providing the US with plenty of pretexts to remain aloof.

Ankara nowadays is particularly perturbed by the ISIS. But isn’t making the ISIS a neighbor of Turkey an outcome of the policy Turkey had been pursuing since the beginning of 2012? The ISIS aims at establishing an Islamic emirate in a part of Syria on behalf of al-Qaeda.

If you make providing support to an “armed Islamic force” an invisible principle and objective of your Syria policy, just to prevent the possibility of an “autonomous Kurdish region,” you will be inevitably laying the foundation of being neighbors with al-Qaeda, even if that wasn’t what you had in mind.

Now you will better understand who may be behind the systematic denigration campaign against this writer over recent months and why.

Comments are closed.

Shoah’s pages