The first most Turks heard of the name Deniz Karacagil was during the Gezi Park revolts in 2013. The young woman, who came to be known as "the girl with the red foulard," had appeared on national television as a symbol of the supposed liberal tendencies and pacificism of the protesters. She was subsequently charged with terrorism.
In her next act, Karacagil appeared before the Turkish public as a peace-loving liberal who had joined the PKK, which Turkey, the United States and the European Union consider a terrorist organization. According to media reports, the girl next door had moved in with the PKK's senior leadership in the Qandil mountains in northern Iraq. Deniz liked to read and tend to flowers, Western sweetheart Can Dündar's Cumhuriyet proudly reported, without caring to mention that she was also receiving weapons and explosives training when she wasn't busy serving as the face of the left's campaign to whitewash the PKK's crimes. Needless to say, interviewee was not confronted with the fact that the people she had joined were responsible for the deaths of tens of thousands of innocent people in Turkey.
Earlier this week, Karacagil made her final appearance in the Turkish media, as newspapers carried the news of her death in northern Syria, where she had been fighting among the ranks of the People's Protection Units (YPG), the PKK's Syrian franchise that the U.S. government currently supplies with weapons and ammunition. Raised on a steady diet of anti-Americanism and anti-imperialism, the 20-something was sent to her death by the Pentagon's best friends in the conflict zone.
The death of Karacagil might read like a novel but it is much more than just an interesting story. Quite the contrary, it sheds light on the shortcomings of the international media, which conveniently ignored the human toll of left-wing radicalism in their coverage of the Syrian civil war and foreign terrorist fighters. At the same time, it serves as a reminder to the Turkish people that the Gezi Park revolts, like Karacagil herself, were not what they seemed. Finally, the all-too-familiar story is a warning to the Turkish government that necessary steps must be taken to save the nation's youth from secular radicalism.
Since the fall of Mosul to Daesh in 2014, Western reporters and analysts largely assumed that terrorism and radicalization were linked to religion and, in particular, Islam. While Westerners trying to join Daesh were correctly identified as foreign terrorist fighters, Western recruits seeking to fight among PKK-YPG ranks have been considered volunteers. For the sake of political correctness, hardly anyone suggested that the problem was Islam. But political correctness did not stop them from treating militants with secular ideologies favorably. The fact that serious news organizations such as The New York Times could dare to claim that the PKK militants – to which it referred as "secular Kurds – were promoting gender equality was a case in point. The case of Deniz Karacagil, however, clearly shows that leftist radicalization is a real threat that we cannot afford to ignore.
At the same time, Karacagil's life and death shows that the Gezi Park revolts were not what Western journalists and left-wingers in Turkey desperately wanted to believe. Although many Westerners still like to think of the 2013 protests as some kind of resistance against authoritarianism, the truth is that people like Karacagil had been groomed by terrorist groups and foreign intelligence agencies that openly support terrorists today to help radicalize more young people. The upside of having witnessed the evolution of Karacagil's public persona is that similar efforts to destabilize Turkey will be met with skepticism by the general population.
The reluctance to acknowledge that leftist militants are no less guilty of terrorism than Daesh and others also resulted in bias against Turkey's efforts to combat radicalization, including the dismissal of faculty members affiliated with the PKK and the Revolutionary People's Liberation Party-Front (DHKP-C) from universities.
Western and local media, which continue to idealize "the men of the mountains," rather than portray them as the bloodthirsty terrorists that they are, should also shoulder some of the blame of Karacagil's death. She is only the latest victim of the selective portrayal of extremism, just the way Gezi Park riots were depicted as an idealist bunch of teenagers by purposefully ignoring the fact that radical terrorist groups used it as a recruiting ground.
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