Fighting against terrorism in all of its forms is an essential component of international law and public order. Turkey's two-front offensive against the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) in Syria and the PKK in Iraq is predicated upon this basic principle. In both fronts, Turkey is acting in accordance with international law and coordinating its efforts with its neighbors and allies. The operations will continue until the ISIS threat is eliminated from the Turkish-Syrian border and the PKK stops its terrorist attacks and lays down its arms. Over the last seven months, Turkey has detained more than 500 ISIS-related individuals and arrested about 100 of them. In addition, more than 1,600 foreign citizens, suspected of ISIS-related activities, have been expelled and 15,000 foreign individuals have been suspended from entering Turkey. Last week, several hundred Turkish and foreign nationals suspected of having links to ISIS have been detained in Turkey. These operations will continue until any and all ISIS networks are undermined.
But attempts are being made to question and even delegitimize Turkey's offensive against ISIS on the one hand and PKK on the other. Some say that it is good that Turkey is bombing ISIS but it should not hit PKK targets. And the funny reason they give is that PKK is fighting against ISIS. Then we need to ask: Since when is it OK to use one terrorist organization to eliminate another one? One should only remember how many times certain governments have supported terrorist groups only to see them turning against those very governments. The fact is that you cannot defeat one terrorist organization with another one. ISIS is a terrorist organization and there is an international coalition against it, of which Turkey is a part. The PKK is a terrorist organization and dozens of countries including the EU and U.S. recognize it as such. The PKK's use of the war in Syria and the anti-ISIS fight cannot be an excuse to whitewash its terrorist activities in Turkey or Iraq.
There is an even more cynical and even nefarious attempt to equate Kurds with the PKK. It sounds like a parody but some major Western newspapers have used such headlines as "Turkey bombs Kurds fighting ISIS." Facts have never been so distorted. The PKK is not the Kurds and the Kurds are not the PKK. Turkey is not bombing the Kurds but hitting PKK headquarters, training camps and arsenals that it uses to attack Turkish citizens and security forces. Since the general elections that were held in June 7 alone, the PKK carried out over 300 terrorist attacks across Turkey. No one should expect Turkey to turn a blind eye to terrorism in its territories. Those who try to make a peace dove out of the PKK should remember that the PKK is responsible for the death of over 40,000 people including thousands of Kurds. The PKK is known for its brutal execution of Kurdish opposition groups in Turkey and Syria. It has killed many Kurds who did not join its fight. Outside Turkey, it has fought Iraqi Kurds in the 1990s before Masoud Barzani finally got things under control. The PKK still sees the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) as its main rival for the leadership of the Kurds in the Middle East. There are millions of Kurds who do not share the PKK's old-fashioned Marxist-Leninist ideology and belated nationalism. The PKK lobby in the Western hemisphere romanticizes about the PKK but the fact is that the PKK is a terrorist organization that has first manipulated and now sabotaged the peace process in Turkey.The PKK propagandists conveniently forget that it was the PKK that ended the cease-fire and declared that the solution process is over. Over the last two years since imprisoned PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan made his first call on the PKK to start disarming, the terrorist group carried out hundreds of terrorist attacks inside Turkey and across the Turkish-Iraqi border, killing dozens of civilians and security forces. Turkey has made it clear that the solution process will continue when the PKK lays down its arms and stops all terrorist activities. You cannot have terrorist attacks and peace talks at the same time. Whether dealing with the Irish Republican Army (IRA) in the U.K., the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) in Columbia or the Moro Liberation Front in the Philippines, all governments sought to secure a balance between peace talks and public order and security. Instead of helping the process of democratization, the PKK chose to terrorize the political space. Therefore the calls on the Turkish government to continue the reconciliation process while saying nothing about the PKK's politics of terrorism are misplaced. Instead of preaching peace and diplomacy to Turkey, officials and commentators should be loud and clear about PKK terrorism that has claimed half a dozen lives over the last week alone.
Over the last 12 years, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan introduced radical measures to improve the political and economic conditions of Kurds in ways that were simply unimaginable before. Today, there are tens of Kurdish lawmakers in the Turkish Parliament. Kurds enjoy their rights like all other citizens and are no longer afraid to express their identity freely. The government has invested billions of dollars in the Kurdish-populated areas. Kurds are part of Turkey's past and future. And this holds true not only for the Kurds of Turkey but also for Kurds living in the neighboring countries. In addition to introducing democratic measures, Turkey also developed excellent relations with the Iraqi Kurds. This week, Mr. Barzani made a clear statement about the recent developments and called on the PKK again to stop terrorist activities and give a chance to peace. When ISIS attacked Iraqi Kurds in Sanjar, it was again Turkey that accepted them into the country.Finally, it was President Erdoğan who asked Bashar Assad to grant Syrian Kurds their rights including identity cards. This was before the Syrian war. In Kobani, Turkey evacuated the city by accepting close 190,000 Kurdish citizens of the city within one week. It was Turkey that facilitated the passage of the Iraqi peshmergha forces and the Free Syrian Army (FSA) into Kobani against ISIS. Therefore it is an outright lie to claim that Turkey is "fighting the Kurds" when in fact it is targeting the PKK headquarters and terrorist camps. Turkey will continue to fight against both ISIS and the PKK, both of which pose a threat to Turkey's national security. This is in the interest of the citizens of Turkey as well as its neighbors and allies.