Turkey's self-defense against terror is justified

Published 18.03.2016 23:40

The Turkish state has every right to defend the welfare and security of its citizens within a democratic framework via a new security paradigm and tougher penalties for those who are proved to support terrorist actions in different ways

In today's globalized world where the benefits of socio-economic integration coexist with the expansion of international terrorism and security threats, liberal democracies have to strike the right balance between national security and fundamental liberties. Although social dynamism and integration calls for a perpetual extension of freedoms, there might be periods of systemic crisis or distress during which the well-being of society shifts the pendulum towards national security via extraordinary measures. This tendency was witnessed in concrete terms in the United States following the 9/11 attacks, in the United Kingdom following the London bombings, and in France following the terrorist attacks in Paris. While the British and French authorities restricted their efforts to extraordinary but temporary security measures against national capitals, the Americans went so far as restructuring their whole domestic security structure around Homeland Security. Yet as these measures were seen as necessary precautions taken to ensure public safety and security against international terrorism, there were no discussions questioning the democratic credentials of these countries, nor any calls indicating the rise of authoritarianism.

Since the collapse of the resolution process and intensification of terrorist attacks since last June, Turkey is also going through an extraordinary period in its political history. Low-intensity warfare going on in various cities and provinces in the southeast continues in tandem with massive terrorist attacks aimed at security forces and civilians in metropolitan cities. Unlike previous waves of terror, which were mainly perpetrated by the PKK secessionist terrorist movement in the rural outskirts of eastern Anatolia, recent attacks carry the emblem of a wide alliance between the PKK, its southern ally in Syria- the People's Protection Units (YPG), DAESH, and radical leftist organizations such as the Revolutionary People's Liberation Party-Front (DHKP-C). Therefore, Turkish security forces are overstretched fighting guerilla warfare to "liberate" eastern cities and towns from PKK paramilitaries, while trying to prevent the repetition of large-scale suicide bombings in metropolitan centers such as Ankara and Istanbul. Since last summer, we have witnessed five substantial bomb attacks perpetrated by DAESH and the PKK and YPG that shocked the nation, while around 300 civilians and security officers lost their lives as a result of ongoing bombings and conflicts.

In this extraordinary conjuncture, the call by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to redefine the notions of "terror" and "terrorism" with a view to strengthening anti-terror laws must be seen as a timely attempt to empower the self-defense reflexes of Turkish democracy. This is more so, because the legal reforms accomplished in the last decade in the context of EU negotiations and resolution process structured Turkey as a tolerant liberal democracy in which activities that could be classified as "terror propaganda" or "logistical support" were not penalized for the sake of advancing the resolution process and preserving social harmony. Yet the leadership of the Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) (the political arm of the PKK), refused to be transformed into a normal-legal political entity and maintained organic links with active terrorists. As soon as the resolution process collapsed due to developments in Syria and the hopes of the PKK leadership to extract concessions from Turkey via blackmailing with pan-Kurdish regional integration, HDP left its peaceful rhetoric and returned to its marginal position of justifying terrorism.

Therefore, the Turkish state has every right to defend the welfare and security of its citizens within a democratic framework via a new security paradigm and tougher penalties for those who are proved to support terrorist actions in different ways. This might include precautions such as lifting the legal immunity of some deputies and more closely monitoring the networks between domestic and international journalists, academics, or NGO managers who directly or indirectly provide support for terrorist organizations. The fact that several suicide bombers in recent attacks came from among university students and cars with explosive equipment were found in university campuses indicate that the new "fight against terror" shall somehow reach elements in Turkish academia. It remains as a key responsibility for the political and bureaucratic actors to advance an effective anti-terror strategy by maintaining maximum respect for democratic rights and preserving Turkey's image in international community.

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