It is no surprise that the Western press is once again being manipulated to force Turkey's hand to "cooperate" with the Western powers to wipe out the extremists of the selfproclaimed Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS). The fact that Ankara is a Western ally and the fact that Turkey's own stability is at stake because of the advances of ISIS in Iraq and Syria, and the volatile situation this is creating in the region, makes Ankara the number one candidate in the region to fight the menace. Added to this is the fact that Turkey is one of the leading countries in NATO that has suffered the most in the hands of international terrorism. So there is every reason for Ankara to cooperate with the West and every reason that it will not and does not help ISIS to prosper in any form.
When all these are hard facts why have so many stories cropped up in the Western media accusing Turkey of collaborating with ISIS? And when all these are facts, why is Ankara so reluctant to join the so-called struggle against ISIS? Here are the answers: The leading players of the American media have been spearheading the campaign against the Turkish government toying with its Islamic roots. The most influential papers, like the New York Times, are lambasting Turkey publishing stories that, in effect, put Ankara as a coalition partner with ISIS and not the Western powers.
The reporting is sloppy and misguided. A Turkish journalist working for the NYT wrote a story on how ISIS is allegedly recruiting its militants from the vicinity of the famous Hacı Bayram Mosque in Ankara, and after a long account ends up slipping in a "detail" that then Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu and then Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan went to the Hacı Bayram Mosque for Friday prayers and thus hints that they are in on the great plot supporting ISIS. This journalist who is writing this column is famed for running the one time respected and influential Turkish Daily News for 32 years as the editor in chief and maintaining high journalistic standards, so we know what we are talking about. For us, the NYT is a newspaper of high standards and editorial integrity thus we feel more sensitivity should have been shown in dealing with this story.
Hacı Bayram is a historical Mosque in Ankara which is held in very high esteem by all Muslims as it hosts the grave of great Islamic thinker and scholar Haci Bayram Veli. The mosque has been renovated and the area has been completely modernized. Turks have always made a habit of praying at the Hacı Bayram Mosque before setting of on a mission. That is why when Davutoğlu was named as candidate for prime minister and Erdoğan was already elected and was about to be sworn in as president the two decided to set off their new missions after prayers at Hacı Bayram. The photo published in the NYT shows Erdoğan and Davutoğlu leaving the mosque as they wave to well-wishers. As a matter of fact they were walking in the footsteps of Ataturk, the founder of modern Turkey, who inaugurated the first Turkish Parliament on April 23, 1920 after attending prayers at Hacı Bayram Mosque. They were also walking in the footsteps of Ataturk who had the Turkish Republic proclaimed with the reading of a khutbah (sermon) at Hacı Bayram. Suleyman Demirel and the late Turgut Ozal both visited Hacı Bayram Mosque before starting off their offices as prime minister and then as president. Abdullah Gul has also done the same. When these are the facts even hinting links between ISIS and the Erdoğan, Davutoğlu duo because they visited the Hacı Bayram Mosque is to say the least misguided if not sinister.
Hacı Bayram Veli was a follower of Jalal ad-Din Rumi discipline. His quarters spread affection, compassion, tolerance, goodwill and peace. The area itself is historically an area of tradesmen and artisans who have nothing to do with terrorism. The houses in the area have been renovated in the Ottoman style for millions of dollars and are now cultural centers. There are no settlements where potential ISIS recruits can be found. There is only one student hostel in the area of the Suleymancı religious order and the members of the order lambast ISIS everyday as heretics. There may be many poor districts in Ankara where ISIS may recruit young people but Hacı Bayram is not really the place... So the Turkish journalist who wrote all this stuff and those who approved the story and published it should have been more particular about their facts.
It is no use the NYT claiming that the picture of Davutoğlu and Erdoğan leaving the mosque was printed by mistake. Such prestigious newspapers do not make such mistakes. The Turkish journalist who wrote the story claims she did not include the Erdoğan, Davutoğlu section in the actual story. Then it is clear those who wanted to manipulate the story did this in New York which is even worse. Someone wanted to smear Davutoğlu and Erdoğan in the NYT and did all this. Our Turkish journalist colleague should realize that depicting Hacı Bayram as a recruitment center for ISIS is also a colossal mistake as we pointed out the facts in very clear terms of what Hacı Bayram is and what it isn't. It is clear that while the American administration wants to push Turkey into a corner and force it to cooperate in earnest against ISIS, it does not want to directly antagonize Ankara so they play the good-copbad- cop act.
The media becomes the bad cop and lambasts Turkey. What is sad is that while doing so they are doing a sloppy job and thus bringing their own journalistic values into disrepute. There are also power centers in the U.S. who want to use every possible occasion to hurt Turkey and they too are using the American media in this smear campaign, after all 2015 will be the year (100th anniversary of the 1915 events) when the Armenians will be launching a massive drive to get their socalled "genocide bill" through Congress. The American administration, while pretending to be more understanding on Turkey's reservations to launch an all-out struggle against ISIS, wants Turkish cooperation at all costs and is playing a two-sided game.
They want to use the southern air base of İncirlik, which is understandable. The U.S. successfully used İncirlik to enforce the no-fly zone against Saddam Hussein in Iraq. İncirlik has always been an important trump card for Washington in the Middle East and they want to utilize it effectively. But there is a but... ISIS is holding 49 Turkish hostages including the staff of the Turkish consulate in Mosul and their dependents including women and children. They have all now become human shields for ISIS. The extremists have disbursed them to different locations thus making it practically impossible to launch a rescue operation.
So when Turkey cooperates with the West to wipe out ISIS it will be signing the death warrant of all its citizens. Can any government do this? Would any government do this? But that is not all. Turkey wants a clear road map of how the coalition forces will deal with ISIS and wipe it out. It does not want a makeshift plan which will strike a blow on ISIS and fails to finish off the extremists. It does not want to be a part of an inconclusive action like in many other places where the coalition eventually fails and everyone goes home leaving you face to face with the extremists... Just look at the state of Iraq and Afghanistan.
One fiasco story after another. Those who are trying to push Turkey into a corner using the media would be better advised to spend their energy looking at the debts of the crisis where so many Muslims around the globe aggrieved by the injustices they face because of Western prejudices, injustices and indifferences are unfortunately applauding the butchering of American journalists and a Western aid worker by ISIS murderers.