The world stands with the Turks in the wake of the terrible attacks on the Ataturk Airport in Istanbul. But we don’t stand with Recep Tayyip Erdogan, whose obsession with destroying the Kurds politically enabled ISIS to kill Turks over the past few months, as well as last night.
At one time, Erdogan appeared to be a force for peace, deescalating the tensions between Turks and Kurds, until a Kurdish Party (HDP) won enough votes in June of 2015 to derail Erdogan’s plan to create a powerful presidential system that would benefit the Turkish leader and his family. In fact, the HDP did well enough to deny Erdogan’s party a majority for the first time in more than a decade. Then the gloves came off, and war was waged against the Kurds later that year, with policies receiving international condemnation.
Erdogan never missed a chance to link the HDP to the PKK, a group regarded by many as a terrorist organization, in his bid for a new election later in 2015. He may not have succeeded in destroying the HDP in that election, but his AKP took votes from the nationalistic MHP in order to win that governing coalition.
Meanwhile, a wave of terrorism struck Turkey. Two blasts even wiped out hundreds of Kurds at a peaceful political rally. But Erdogan’s Prime Minister pointed the finger at the Kurds, illogically accusing them of killing their own people. They’ve arrested scores of domestic dissenters and blasted academics pushing for peace with the Kurds.
At the same time, Turkey was given permission to bomb ISIS in Syria. But that never happened. Instead, Turkey used that NATO base to strike at Syrian Kurd(YPG and the PYD), a group that was actually fighting ISIS on the ground.
As more attacks occurred in Turkey, Erdogan accused the Americans and Russians of helping the Syrian Kurds (YPG and the PYD), claiming they were responsible. He even shot down a Russian plane, and warned Americans about helping Syrian Kurds.
Media censorship on the ground after each bombing inhibited the ability of the press to find the real culprits: ISIS, or maybe some other shadowy element interested in killing Kurds. Even as the finger was pointed at YPG and the PYD, the group denied responsibility for the bombings. Instead, some nebulous group called “the Falcons” (or was it the Eagles or the Seahawks?), accused of being Kurdish, swooped in to “take the credit” for each kill.
Now there are many dead Turks. Increasingly, it is looking more and more like ISIS did this one, and maybe the other ones. While Erdogan put a bullseye on the Kurds in the past, ISIS came to town, and is poised to turn Turkey into the next Syria, Libya, Yemen, or Iraq, making it the new front in the war on terror. The YPG and PYD attacks on ISIS could have been much better, without Turkish government bombs falling on them.
Some claim that Erdogan is really in league with ISIS, or wouldn’t mind if the group, an enemy of his petty rival Bashir al-Assad in Syria, succeeded. At a minimum, Erdogan’s guilty of incompetence, letting ISIS get away with murder while he plays party politics. It’s no wonder he wanted to change Turkey from a parliamentary system to a powerful presidential system. Because if he was still prime minister, he could be facing a vote of no confidence for how he’s allowed ISIS to win in Turkey.
John A. Tures is a professor of political science at LaGrange College in LaGrange, Ga. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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