Turkey’s cross-border anti-terror Operation Peace Spring once again revealed the double standards and hypocrisy that the European media and politicians have adopted against Turkey.
During Turkey’s efforts to protect its border security from terrorist elements and establish a safe zone for Syrian refugees to resettle in a secure and stable environment, most European countries insisted on ignoring Ankara’s legitimate concerns and tried to create a false perception about the ongoing anti-terror military operation.
Turkey launched Operation Peace Spring on Oct. 9 to eliminate terrorists from northern Syria east of the Euphrates River in order to secure Turkey's borders, aid in the safe return of Syrian refugees and ensure Syria's territorial integrity. Operation Peace Spring was the third in a series of cross-border anti-terror operations in northern Syria targeting terrorists affiliated with Daesh and the PKK’s Syrian branch People’s Protection Units (YPG).
The operation, conducted in line with the country's right to self-defense borne out of international law and U.N. Security Council resolutions, aims to establish a terror-free safe zone for Syrians return in the area east of the Euphrates River controlled by the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which is dominated by YPG terrorists.
After Turkey launched the operation, some EU members demanded the U.N. Security Council released a joint statement against the operation, following the bloc’s message of condemnation. However, this demand was rejected by both the U.S. and Russia at the Security Council. Although their initial attempt was rejected in the council, some EU members also released a joint statement against Turkey. In their statements about the operation, Western politicians expressed their "concerns" by saying that civilians in the region were "under threat."
Supporters of the PKK terror group and the YPG also conducted a defamation campaign against Turkey by sharing fake news and footage on social media. In these posts, videos or photos taken in different places and times were presented as if from Operation Peace Spring to manipulate the public's perceptions.
Looking at the big picture, it is still unforgettable how most European countries have treated refugees coming from Syria and how some politicians exploited the situation. On the other hand, Turkey opened its doors to almost 4 million Syrian refugees and provided them many opportunities, such as education, health care, and cultural and social services. While refugees in Turkey have been living in solidarity, Western societies have witnessed discrimination and racism against refugees with the rise of political ideologies adopting such stances.
Since 2011, Turkey has received a constant flow of displaced Syrians fleeing the conflict and their numbers have expanded from mere thousands to millions. Interior Ministry figures say the number of refugees in Turkey has now reached 4.9 million, including 3.6 million Syrian refugees. Ankara has spent nearly $40 billion so far for the refugees, while it has only received about 6 billion euros ($6.6 billion) of support from the international community.
Ankara and Brussels signed an agreement in 2016 to find a solution to the influx of refugees heading to the union. According to the deal, Turkey was promised 6 billion euros in financial aid, which was initially designed to be given to the country in two stages and be used by the Turkish government to finance projects for Syrian refugees. Visa liberalization for Turkish citizens was also promised to be provided under the agreement.
The customs union was also to be updated in accordance with the deal. In exchange for these promises of the EU, Turkey took the responsibility of discouraging irregular migration through the Aegean Sea by taking stricter measures against human traffickers and improving the conditions of Syrians living in Turkey. Despite significant developments in the control of migration traffic, the EU could not deliver on its commitments stated in the deal.
As European countries were organizing solidarity marches for the victims killed in the Daesh terror attacks across Europe in 2015, there were no events or organizations for victims killed in terror attacks by Daesh, the PKK or Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ) in Turkey. In contrast, many Western countries opened their doors for members of FETÖ and the PKK when they escaped from Turkey and also allowed their activities to continue in their countries.
Another recent example of Europe’s double standards against Turkey was witnessed at a sports event. When Turkish national football team players celebrated their goals by performing military salutes to dedicate them to Turkish soldiers fighting in northern Syria in Operation Peace Spring, European football’s governing body UEFA launched an investigation against Turkey's squad. Turkish players were also heavily criticized by Western media and politicians. However, many instances of military salutes by European footballers went unpunished before. While these celebrations had been televised or covered as patriotic or innocent gestures by the media, Turkish players' celebrations, to the contrary, were censored, condemned and investigated.
PKK supporters attack Turkish citizens
Another important point was the intensified violent attacks by PKK supporters targeting the Turkish community across many countries in Europe. Following the beginning of the operation, at least 26 violent attacks were recorded against the Turkish community between Oct. 10 and 17.
The attacks not only targeted Turkish civilians but also foreign missions, businesses, Turkish associations and mosques, with the sympathizers of the terror group even setting fire to these places in some instances. Apart from attacking the Turkish community, PKK supporters also held rallies in support of the terrorist group in several European capitals, including Berlin, London, Amsterdam, Cologne and other cities.
As the attacks mounted, Turkey called for an increase in security measures against the PKK violence in European countries amid the ongoing anti-terror operation in Syria.
This was not the first time Turkish civilians have been targeted by the PKK in Europe after Turkey had launched an operation against terrorist groups. Their supporters have previously targeted innocent civilians across Europe, thanks to the leniency of European governments toward the violence.
During Turkey's two previous cross-border operations against terrorist groups, PKK supporters attacked the Turkish community across Europe.
Turkey has long criticized European authorities for tolerating PKK activities in their countries and has pressured them to take stricter measures against the propaganda, recruitment and fundraising activities of the group.
The PKK, which is listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the U.S. and the EU, has waged a terror campaign against Turkey for more than 30 years and has been responsible for the deaths of nearly 40,000 people, including women and children.
Despite its status as a designated international terrorist organization, the PKK has enjoyed relative freedom in European cities and has a particularly strong presence in Germany. PKK supporters have been allowed to hold rallies, recruit militants and collect funds in Germany, which is home to some 5 million people with Turkish origin, including Kurds. The PKK has been banned in Germany since 1993, but it is still active, with nearly 14,000 followers among the country's Kurdish immigrant population.
Erdoğan slams Europe
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan yesterday criticized European countries’ stance against Turkey during the Operation Peace Spring.
"Terrorist supporters, especially the ones in Europe, have carried out 700 acts targeting Turkey since the start of Operation Peace Spring," the president said, noting that European countries remained silent in the face of these attacks, although 79 of them directly targeted Turkish citizens and institutions and 36 Turkish civilians got injured.
Erdoğan noted that many of these countries are Turkey's NATO allies but allow these terrorists to carry out such acts under the supervision of the police.
He reiterated that all of these countries recognize the PKK as a terrorist organization, but fail to take action against their activities in their countries.
"The countries which recognize the PKK as terrorists allow its symbols on their streets while banning all pro-Turkey activities," he added.
Erdoğan called on European countries to take necessary measures against these terrorist groups before it is too late.
He also underlined France's support for terrorist organizations.
"France’s Lafarge provided the cement for the tunnels dug by the YPG/PKK in Syria. France should be held accountable for aiding and abetting terrorist organizations," Erdoğan said.