Wake up to the compassion of Turkey
By EGEMEN BAĞIŞ
Minister of European Union Affairs and Chief Negotiator of the Republic of Turkey 2011-2013
Minister of State 2009-2011
Member of Parliament representing Istanbul 2002-2015
Recently there has been a wave of co-ordinated anti Turkish protests in London and elsewhere by supporters of the PYD/YPG, the Syrian Kurdish arm of the terrorist organisation the PKK.
The protests have achieved publicity for the YPD’s cause by claiming that Turkey is engaged in a campaign of ethnic cleansing in the Syrian region of Afrin.
It is notable that the protesters carried the PKK flag. This constitutes a flagrant breach of the anti -terror laws in the UK which proscribe the PKK as a terrorist organisation and undermines the PYD and YPG arguments that they are not linked to the PKK.
Indeed, the CIA has described the YPD as the Syrian branch of the PKK.
This action was taken in support of a well organised campaign which seems to have blinded the European press and opinion formers to the real aim of Turkey’s Operation Olive Branch.
This failure to take account of the Turkish perspective on this issue or to give Turkey due credit for its humanitarian efforts in providing aid to refugees, its major role in fighting ISIS and Turkey’s right to self defence from foreign and domestic terrorist threats from the PKK has caused significant shock and disillusionment within Turkey over the stance taken by her allies and the lack of balance in the reporting of the situation.
Operation Olive branch began on the January 20 this year. It was a move by the Turkish military which had to act due to an increased terror threat to Turkey’s national security. The operation’s main focus is to clear the area of ISIS, PKK/PYD/YPG terrorists and create a safe zone in the Afrin region and along the 911km border that Turkey shares with Syria.
Thanks to a bold position of largely unrecognised and unacknowledged compassion and humanity Turkey has proven its success in creating stable zones for Syrians with Operation Euphrates Shield. Thousands of Syrians, Arabs, Turkmens and Kurds returned to their homes.
Turkey did not receive well-deserved International credit for wiping out ISIS terrorists as part of Operation Euphrates Shield. Nor was it recognised for the billions of dollars -$30 billion – that Turkey has spent since the Syrian conflict began.
There has not been a full appreciation from our Western allies of the housing and ongoing support of nearly 4 million Syrian refugees.
Turkey has taken huge responsibilities by conducting an open border policy during the Syrian crisis and has as a consequence experienced the most terror attacks of any NATO member country.
According to International law, Turkey has the right to fight terrorism along its border, cited in the Charter of the United Nations, Chapter VII. Turkey also has a duty to protect NATO while protecting its own border, and vice versa.
The Turkish-Syria border is not just a border for Turkey and Syria, it is the Southern flank of NATO. NATO members hold a duty under Article 5 of the Washington Treaty, which has the principle of collective defence that ‘an attack against one ally is considered an attack against all allies’.
Currently Kurdish militia, the YPG, are pushing to exercise their control in Afrin, and this poses a major threat to the Turkish nation. The Turkish government has an obligation to prioritise the welfare and safety of its citizens.
Also in Afrin, Syrian Arabs, Turkmens and non YPD/YPG affiliated Kurds have been forced from their homes, with a number of villages rased, and subjected to violence by the YPD/YPG.
Amnesty International argued that the forced displacement of civilians by the YPD/YPG is tantamount to war crimes.
Human Rights Watch has also reported that political activists from non YPD/YPG parties have gone missing or been killed in “unclear circumstances”.
In addition the YPD/YPG have struck a deal with the Assad regime which allows pro Assad militia safe passage across Northern Syria to fight alongside the YPD/YPG in Afrin
This group of terrorists claims to focus on democracy for the Kurdish people, claims to be fighting for their rightful land, claims that they will clear out DAESH/ISISand bring safety to the area.
However, if you look more closely at the background of the YPG/PYD, a sinister vein runs through their history. YPG and PYD are one and the same as PKK.
Dan Coates, US Director of National Intelligence, gave testimony in the US Senate confirming this was the case. The manifesto of PYD/YPG has been prepared by the PKK.
This group continues to spread terror. It is responsible for planned attacks on Turkish territory, many centred on killing and injuring security forces and police, but also targeting infrastructure and areas specifically in the south west, near the border.
Many civilians have lost lives and have been affected from rocket attacks, the most recent of which, only two weeks ago, killed a teenage girl and injured others.
The YPG openly show their allegiance to the founder and leader of the PKK, Abdullah Ocalan. In demonstrations they hold flags bearing his picture and the PKK symbol. In YPG offices they are proud to display framed photographs of Ocalan on their walls. Denying this fact is a denial of reality.
Yet the United States has backed the YPG in the fıght agaınst DAESH/ISIS and continue to do so. Only last week the U.S. proposed to send hundreds of millions of dollars to Syria to ‘train, equip, sustain and enable’ Syrian opposition groups in the fıght against DAESH.
They may well have good intentions in Syria, but as a NATO ally, the United States should stand united with Turkey in the fight against many threats, instead of neglecting its global leadership role and leaning on Turkey to demonstrate the humanity it is ignoring.
The United States is backing one terror group to fight another terror group, without due consideration of the major impact this has on its coalition partner.
They send troops from thousands of miles away, they send money and arms. What is the intent? They have no ongoing threats to their own borders to the heightened degree that Turkey is currently experiencing.
The United States government representatives claim they appreciate Turkey’s security concerns, but actions need to reflect this. Their focus is ISIS/DAESH they say, but they are missing the bigger picture and long term consequences that will continue long after their troops have shipped out.
What can be made of the exclusive BBC News reporting showing ISIS terrorists leaving Raqqa with their families and weapons under the supervision of PYD/YPG, with alleged US approval? This footage goes against the very ethos of ‘war on terror’. What would be their reaction if terrorists on their own border were firing rockets directly onto US territory while a strategic NATO partner was assisting those terrorists?
The European’s Union’s failure to tackle the humanitarian problem amounts to outsourcing the problem to others such as Turkey. The international community in general and Europe in particular has turned a blind eye to the humanitarian crisis.
As has been written, the EU failed to tackle the crisis at its borders, and is seen to be outsourcing its problems to Turkey. European countries are trying to use Turkey as a subcontractor to do what they could not have done themselves.
Turkey currently hosts nearly 4 million registered Syrians displaced by the ongoing conflict in their home country. From the outset, the Turkish government’s goal has been to assist the refugees to return to their own country, once it is safe to do so. We have given them opportunities to work, free access to schools and health care as well as a path to Turkish citizenship. Their safety and dignity are uppermost in our minds.
Our people welcome their Syrian sisters and brothers who have fled the war and violence in their country with open arms.
We have provided free training for the younger refugees and so far over 75.000 have attended courses as a first step to building a new life for themselves. We are not just offering sanctuary to the Syrians but significantly improving their living conditions and providing them with a new confidence
There are many Syrian Kurds who fled from the region. They do not share the murderous ideology of the PYD/YPG, and because of that they have been persecuted.
This Kurdish population and the broader Kurdish population in Turkey, are able to co-exist with the same desire to collaborate in the war on terror. We all have the same wish, to re-instate peace and stability in this region.
I believe that the form and manifestation of the continued threat of terrorism is constantly changing, and it is imperative that we unite and remain resolute in our fight against it.
Operation Olive Branch is a necessary stand against those whose violent ideology infringes our right to a safe existence. Turkey deserves much more support while defending her borders and citizens until the terrorism threat is eliminated.