May 13, 2013

Turkey’s eroding reputation

    Monday, May 13, 2013   No comments

by Ahmed E. Souaiaia*

Syrian rebel killing Syrian soldiers
It took law enforcement agencies of the United States nearly three days to identify the perpetrators of the recent terrorist bombing. It helped that the attack was in a modern city (Boston) and during a marathon event. Security cameras, spectators, and TV and media reporters on the scene helped gather evidence. Still, it took that much to identify the attackers.

In contrast, it took Turkish authorities just hours (if not minutes) to identify the perpetrators of the recent terrorist attack in Reyhanlı. Reyhanli is a remote town in the Hatay province, which borders Syria. The town did not have any security cameras and it is virtually on the edge of a war zone. The province is home to tens of thousands of refugees and thousands of Syrian rebels, many of whom are known terrorists and they have killed many Syrian civilians and bragged about it. Moreover, the attack occurred days after the announced start of PKK fighters’ withdrawal after nearly 25 years of insurgency. Despite all these circumstances, Turkish leaders immediately identified the attackers with precision:

“The issue is completely related to the regime in Syria, it has no relation whatsoever with the opponents. When the result fully comes out, all will be publicized. However, the issue is completely related with the regime. The regime is behind this issue. This is obvious. But the regime of course has its extensions in Turkey,” insisted Prime Minister Recep Erdoğan.

In my mind, the only thing that is obvious is the following question: what is your secret, PM Erdoğan? Can you teach the rest of the world how to catch criminals so fast?

Ostensibly, Turkey’s leaders do not distinguish between theory and facts. It is a good working theory that the Syrian regime might be behind the attack. But for the top political leader of the country to make the accusation so fast is indeed extraordinary. There is still a difference between what is “obvious” and what is “evident.”  Prime Minister Erdoğan should know that and wait until the investigation is complete. 

What is also obvious is that Turkey has taken the side of the rebels in Syria and Syrians (many of whom are innocent civilians) have died because of the militarization of the conflict in Syria. Many of the groups Turkey supports have carried out terrorist acts against Syrian civilians. I, and many others, have said that Turkey could become Pakistan if its leaders continue to support violent elements in Syria. Turkish leaders should have insisted on a peaceful solution not on a military one.

Erdoğan’s hasty accusations discredit the investigative process, expose his biases, and weaken the rule of law. Mixing his politics with the direction of a criminal investigation exposes his authoritarian tendencies and his hubris. In a country such as Turkey, with many religious and ethnic minorities, political leaders ought to be very careful when making accusations before an independent, impartial, and transparent investigation is concluded. Erdoğan’s statements risk the safety of the people of Turkey and that of thousands of refugees in his country. Erdoğan is increasingly sliding to a sectarian position that threatens peace within and near his country and stifles civil society institutions.
* Prof. SOUAIAIA teaches at the University of Iowa. Opinions are the author’s, speaking on matters of public interest; not speaking for the university or any other organization with which he is affiliated.


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