Today is Eid al-Adha, or "Kurban Bayramı" as we say in Turkish. This is a day of sacrifice and devotion. This is an occasion for joy and celebration. This is the day to remember the story of Abraham and Ismael's devotion to God. Abraham's test and ultimate victory against his own self remains a timeless reminder of humans' potential to overcome their carnal desires and reach a state of spiritual perfection beyond the limitations of this ephemeral world.
The Hajj (pilgrimage) is the supreme act of devotion whereby worshippers circumambulate the Ka'ba (situated in Mecca, Saudi Arabia) to go beyond all that is petty, base and selfish. The Hajj itself is a trial from beginning to end. When the pilgrims stand atop the hill of Arafah and re-enact the Day of Judgment when we all will be held accountable for our actions in this world. Muslims pray five times a day, turning toward the Ka'ba for every prayer, standing before God in total devotion. But standing on Arafah takes this act of submission to a higher level.
Eid al-Adha is also a great occasion for celebration and social interaction. This is a day when people are reminded again that they are all equal before God regardless of their social and economic status, wealth or poverty, race or color. They are enjoined to share whatever they have. They are encouraged to welcome relatives and neighbors into their homes, feed the poor, visit the elderly, help the orphans and any one in need.
This is a great day and I wish all Muslims a joyous eid.
As I wrote back in July in this column, "far from giving a sense of joy and happiness, the current state of the Muslim world presents a rather bleak picture. Almost a thousand people have been dying every month in Muslim countries in recent years. The main toll is in Iraq and Syria with significant numbers perishing from violence and death in Egypt, Somalia, Libya, Nigeria, Pakistan, Yemen and other places. In most cases, Muslims are killing Muslims.
"ISIS has taken its insanity and barbarity to new levels. They kill Iraqi Shia because of their religious identity. Now, in defiance of a tradition of religious pluralism spanning hundreds of years, they are persecuting Iraqi Christians by offering them two choices: either convert to Islam by force or die. Various al-Qaida groups including al-Shabab in Somalia and al-Nusra in Syria attack Muslim targets and kill Muslims more than non-Muslims. The logic in both cases is the same: my way or the highway.
These exclusivist ideologies and their brutal tactics have no religious basis. You cannot simply kill Shias or force Christians to convert to Islam. This is not religion but petty imperialism." Since writing these words, ISIS has continued its carnage in Iraq and Syria and the Syrian regime has added new atrocities to its disgraceful humanitarian record. Most recently, close to 200,000 residents of Kobani have fled ISIS terrorism and are currently taking refuge in Turkey.
A new international coalition has now formed against ISIS and has already carried out hundreds of air strikes against ISIS targets.
On Thursday, the Turkish Grand National Assembly passed a motion to allow the government to use military force against terrorist groups and security threats in Iraq and Syria. The motion also allows foreign troops to use Turkish soil and air space in the fight against ISIS and other terrorist groups.
Turkey supports air strikes and other measures against ISIS but it also calls for a broader political, military and humanitarian strategy to address the root causes that created the conditions for the rise of ISIS in the first place. Clearly, the chaos in Iraq and the civil war in Syria have prepared the ground for ISIS's emergence. These two troubled spots, among others, have created a deep sense of alienation and anger among millions of Sunnis. In Iraq, they have rebelled against an increasingly sectarian government and army. In Syria, they are butchered by a sectarian minority-regime. They have reacted to extremisms and the extreme failures of the Iraqi and Syrian states. ISIS has hijacked the moderate and legitimate struggle of the Syrian National Council and the Free Syrian Army in Syria. But this is also a result of the failure of the international community to support the Syrian people.
With this background in mind, Turkey demands a No-Fly Zone (NFZ) and a safe haven for both security and humanitarian reasons. Aerial strikes against ISIS will not succeed until and unless ISIS is fully contained and destroyed. The current attacks may or may not destroy ISIS but they will certainly force it to move toward Syria and closer to the Turkish-Syrian border. As we have seen in Kobani over the last few days, ISIS still has the capacity to take entire cities and force thousands of people to flee despite the ongoing aerial strikes. A NFZ and safe haven will protect the Turkish-Syrian border against both ISIS and the Assad regime. It will also enable Turkey and its allies to set up refugee camps on Syrian soil.
These short-term tactical measures need to be part of a broader strategy. Addressing the legitimate grievances of Sunnis in Iraq and establishing a democratic and pluralistic political order in Syria are the keys to containing and eradicating terrorist threats in the region.
About the author
Presidential spokesperson for the Republic of Turkey