I was in Erbil shortly after the ISIS approached the foothills of the city and withdrew in 2014.
Amongst the habitants of Erbil, there was a great surprise and disappointment about Turkey’s attitude.
Apparently, they expected Erdogan, who had very good relations with the Kurdish regional government back then, to come to their help at the most fearsome moments of their lives.
The barbarians who slaughtered the Yazidis in a bloodbath in Sinjar were at their doorstep.
But they could not hear any friendly words from Turkey , not alone any help or assistance for any matter.
Then Kobane in Syria was attacked by these barbarians. There, too, Turkish government at first showed no sentiments; did not utter any words of sympathy towards the people of Kobane.
The alienation of Kurds from the entire region to Turkey had reached its peak. And then, at one point, Turkey allowed peshmerga forces from Northern Iraq to cross from Turkish territory to reach Kobane, as a result tensions were eased a bit.
However, Turkey’s priorities as regards to ISIS and its conceived threats in the region since then, have been in clear conflict with the expectations of the Kurds and with how the rest of the world prioritize matters in this region.
Until just four-five years ago, ISIS could easily spread propaganda in Turkey; they could easily organize; they were able to make threats to religious minorities in Turkey, like they did to Jafaris. https://www.posta.com.tr/camideki-yanginin-arkasinda-isid-var-235367
However, after a while, ISIS started to carry out horrific assaults on Turkish territory as well as clashing with some groups in Syria, which were supported by Turkey, then their treatment was started to change; they turned into a national threat.
But I don’t think Islamists and conservative people of Turkey could ever look deeply into what this organization represents; it’s worldview; it’s origins.
According to our Islamists and conservative Muslims, ISIS has nothing to do with “true Islam”.
It is an American and Western conspiracy against Muslim world.
In other words, ISIS rather than representing a worldview, a religion, an ideology, it is just a puppet organization which is used to advance the interest of some dark circles.
There are some more “sophisticated” explanations though. They say this organization is just a result of atrocities committed in Middle East and Iraq by the USA.
As far as I’m concerned, there’s only partial truth to this last one.
Indeed, when ISIS swiftly occupied large swaths in Iraq, it got help and support from local people who were angry with USA’s role in this country; frustrated with their life and so on.
Likewise, some symbols used by Isis leader Baghdadi were directly referring to his own experiences.
For example, after the American invasion of Iraq, the orange-colored clothes that were worn by him in the Buka camp where he was held were put on the victims in all executions of ISIS.
However, it is impossible to explain a structure like ISIS only with the role that the USA played in the Middle East.
What ISIS represents is an overarching ideology and religious interpretation which covers every aspect of life.
One way or another, all the comments and interpretations made by ISIS are based on certain sources that exist in Islam.
Muslim world, including Turkish Islamists, refused to look at the Islamic roots of this organization.
Instead, they preferred to toy with conspiracy theories.
Historically, culturally, sociologically, it is an organization with deep roots.
Therefore, those who think this organization is over when American special forces killed Baghdadi in an operation on the Turkish border are mistaken.
Just as the killing of Mullah Akhtar Mansour in 2016 by an American drone strike did not end the Taliban; just as the killings of bin Laden and Zarqawi did not end al-Qaeda, ISIS is not going to end with the killing of Baghdadi.
The group still has tens of thousands of militants in Iraq and Syria.
Whether it’s completely real or a certain myth, after Turkey’s operation in Syria, thousands of militants of ISIS have taken advantage of the security frailty and escaped.
Turkey’s inclusion among the countries that Trump thanked after Baghdadi’s murder does not change this perception.
Indeed, according to a statement made by American officials to Foreign Policy magazine, this thank was not for intelligence or operational support, but for Turkey’s allowing its airspace to be used. https://foreignpolicy.com/2019/10/27/isis-islamic-state-leader-baghdadi-killed/Moreover, according to the same official, Turkey was informed that the operation would be carried out, but it had not been informed of who the concrete target was.
From now on, we are probably going to witness ISIS revenge attacks.
As these attacks turn to Western targets, the US withdrawal from northern Syria and Turkey’s operation there would be increasingly on the table.
It has already been discussed as to why Baghdadi was so close to the Turkish border and how he was able to stay in this part of Syria which is under serious military and intelligence control of Turkey.
As ISIS launches bloody attacks, it will be spoken more loudly that Turkey is hurting the fight against ISIS by pushing back the Kurds in Syria.
And, of course, Turkish President had some very thought-provoking statements regarding Turkish incursion in Syria.
In the past few weeks, we have heard very interesting statements from the president Erdogan such as “We will be fierce against heretics, as we did in Syria” https://www.dailymotion.com/video/x7n1b7f and “It is important to keep the lifestyle under control in Idlib”.https://t24.com.tr/haber/erdogan-mazlum-denen-teroristi-abd-vermeli,845283
Is Turkey fighting “terrorists” as it calls PYD or infidels as it is stated by the president? Is Turkey intervening to eliminate a “threat” in northern Syria, is it there to create a “way of life”?
What is the main motivation of the FSA, which is now called the National Syrian Army (Free Syrian Army), with which Turkey is acting together in Syria? When you look at the videos that are being circulated on the internet, you see that they after capturing, they call Kurds “heretics”.
The AK Party government wants the whole world to see what is happening in northern Syria as Turkey’s war against terrorism.
But looking at what is going on in Syria, from a global perspective, it is quite hard to see in the same way as Turkish government see what is happening in Syria.
Most probably, in the aftermath of the killing the ISIS leader, and after the possible terrorist attacks it will unleash around the world, these differences of the way seeing things in Syria by Turkish government and by the rest of the world will grow bigger every passing day.
Due to nationalistic atmosphere and severe lack of freedom of expression in Turkey, it is not possible to discuss freely and honestly what Turkey is exactly doing in Syria; how Kurds and native people of the region would be effected and whether Turkey’s operations would harm global struggle against ISIS in anyway.
But in the wake of the possible ISIS attacks, all the things we Turks cannot discuss here in Turkey, would be widely discussed around the world.