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Even if IS is defeated militarily in Iraq, the emergence and growth of IS constitutes a major problem within Sunni Islam. An intelligent anti-terror strategy must also address the problems philosophical basis.
I recently found myself unexpectedly - due to a last minute cancellation by an official who was to come from Turkey to attend an international meeting - speaking at a panel devoted to the terror group calling itself Islamic State (IS). As you know, I am referring to the former ISIS, that is the organisation that for 69 days has been holding our diplomats, their families and our special forces hostage.
That notorious affair, which in a normal country would surely top the agenda and about which the government and especially the foreign minister would be obliged to keep society informed, discussion of which is stifled under a reporting ban.
You will hear this organisation described in a great variety of ways in Turkey: anything from ‘head choppers’ to a ‘Sunni resistance movement’. Depending on who you ask you get a different answer. Turkey has put this organisation on its terror list, but the position we adopted during the Syrian civil war and the ease with which members of this organisation are able to enter and exit our territory and receive treatment show that Ankara’s position with regard to this organisation is anything but straightforward.
Leaving to one side the way that during Eid sympathisers of this organisation were openly calling for jihad in Istanbul, the fact that the organisations flags and symbols may be sold in public and a foundation sympathetic towards the organisation can continue its activities are matters that demand explanation. These barbarians who cut off peoples heads and play football with them were born of the 2004 invasion of Iraq. Over time, IS became so barbaric that even Al-Qaeda distanced itself from them, disowning them and saying that they were harming the formers image. Turkey now stands accused in the world of failing to take adequate action against this organisation, or even of harbouring sympathy towards this organisation. This is a very serious accusation for a NATO-member country, and one that bases its security strategy on cooperation with this alliance. Foreign journalists describe how members of this organisation quite brazenly meet, give interviews and have their photographs taken in Reyhanlı, Hatay or Kilis, and how these people somehow or other receive treatment in Turkish hospitals. The reporter of a foreign TV station boards a plane with these guys in Europe, accompanies them from Istanbul until they cross the border and shoots a documentary. It stinks to high heaven.
It is true that the fellow named Maliki ostracised the Sunnis in Iraq to the extent that these people even embraced the IS. The Arabs call this ostracisation and disdain ‘mazlumiya’. Yes, the Sunnis in the region see the Shiites as being more decisive, organised and self-confident than themselves, and react to this. We know that Salafist doctrines have begun to change, especially along with the Arab Awakening. We are conscious that Salafist movements, previously more inward looking and inclined not to cause problems for existing regimes, have along with the IS and others adopted more aggressive strategies aimed at overthrowing existing orders.
However, it was only last week when I read the story of 14-year-old Yaşar who ran away from his home in Ankara Hacıbayram to join IS that I realised how close the danger has come to us. The story of his arrival in the IS capital of Raqa, his indoctrination and his subsequent injury in combat and calling his father from hospital. We hear of traumatised youth being tempted to join IS in areas like Keçiören which have been subjected to ‘urban transformation’. The message is loud and clear. If Ankara does not take this matter seriously, it will begin to witness a very grave terror problem on its own territory. Having spoken of solving one terror problem, we will become acquainted with a new one. This is no joke. Once our 49 citizens have been rescued, Ankara must focus on this matter with determination.
Even if IS is defeated militarily in Iraq, the emergence and growth of IS constitutes a major problem within Sunni Islam. An intelligent anti-terror strategy must also address the problems philosophical basis. Unfortunately, Ankaras stance with regard to the region, emotional approach to foreign policy that is devoid of cold bloodedness and neo-Ottomanist lumpenisation that is gaining in momentum in internal politics give us scant grounds to be hopeful in this regard.