Monday, May 2, 2016

Turkey's Fake War on Jihadis, by Burak Bekdil

In theory, Turkey is part of the international coalition that fights the Islamic State (IS). 

Since it joined the fight last year, it has arrested scores of IS militants, made some efforts to seal its porous border with Syria and tagged IS as a terrorist organization. Turkish police have raided homes of suspected IS operatives.

More recently, Turkey's Interior Ministry updated its list of "wanted terrorists" to include 23 IS militants, and offered rewards of more than 42 million Turkish liras (more than $14 million) for any information leading to the suspects' capture. But this is only part of the story.

On March 24, a Turkish court released seven members of IS, including the commander of the jihadists' operations on Turkish soil. A total of 96 suspects are on trial, including the seven men who were detained but released. All are free now, although the indictment against them claims that they engaged in the activities of the terrorist organization called DAESH [Arabic acronym of IS]. The suspects had sent persons to the conflict zones; they applied pressure, force, violence and threats by using the name of the terrorist organization, and they had provided members and logistic support for the group.

The release of terror suspects came in sharp contrast with another court decision that ruled for a trial, but while under detention, for four academics who had signed a petition calling for peace in Turkey's Kurdish dispute. Unlike the IS militants, the academics remain behind bars.

The Turkish government, which controls the judiciary almost in its entirety, relies on Islamist grassroots supporters of various flavors -- from Islamists and 'lite jihadists' to radicals.

Last year the Turkish pollster MetroPOLL found that one in every five Turks thought that the Charlie Hebdo attack in Paris was the natural response to people who insulted Prophet Mohammed [only 16.4% of Turks thought of the incident as an attack on freedom of expression]. Among the ruling Justice and Development Party's (AKP) voters, the rate of approval of the attack was 26.4%; and only 6.2% viewed it as an attack on free speech. 

Only 17.8% of AKP voters thought the attack was the work of radical Islamists. Three-quarters of AKP voters thought Muslims were aggrieved by the attack; while as few as 15.4% thought the victims were the cartoonists who were murdered. Two-thirds of AKP voters thought attacks on Islam by Christian Crusaders were continuing.