Turkey resolves to fight terrorism in all its forms

Turkey's ambassador to the United Arab Emirates, M Levent Bilgen, explains why the country will continue its operations against the outlawed PKK

Female PKK fighters walk through destroyed houses in Sinja. Asmaa Waguih / Reuters
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The scourge of terrorism has targeted Turkey again. The renewed acts of terror by the PKK, which is recognised internationally as a terrorist organisation, have made hearts heavy in Turkey. Press coverage of these events, conversely, seems quite selective.

Turkey has taken bold steps in the last decade to further its democracy and to raise standards in all facets of daily life, including groundbreaking reforms addressing the Kurdish issue. The reconciliation process initiated by the Turkish government has been a recent and genuine effort in this vein, and it involved political parties, societal leaders and non-governmental organisations from a wide spectrum in meaningful discussions towards an eventual resolution. It also imposed a fundamental condition by calling for the complete disarmament of the PKK.

This has not been met as the PKK would lose influence and its substantial financial means obtained through human and drug trafficking as well as other criminal acts in Turkey and beyond to support its terrorist activities. It is becoming more apparent nowadays that throughout the so-called ceasefire period of the last two years, which enabled the reconciliation process, the PKK was gearing up for an all-out mobilisation to reignite violence and terror. Indeed, the chronology of rhetoric and action by the PKK since late last year has proved to be a precursor of the elevated terrorist activities in some parts of Turkey’s south-east.

Through disruption of public order, extortion, assassinations and kidnappings, heinous attacks against public and security personnel, and sabotage of infrastructure, the PKK once more displays its true colour. Innocent civilians perish and security forces pay the ultimate price to uphold public order, as the PKK viciously feeds on the anarchy it creates.

However, coverage of Turkey’s continuing operations, to our dismay, tries to depict a picture of oppression and injustice which creates a distorted public opinion. Demonstrations in some parts of Europe where the PKK is active have been part of the wider publicity campaign against Turkey and its increased counterterrorism operations. Detailed portrayal of the misfortune of terrorists and those aiding and abetting them is not only misleading, but is also crafty emotional exploitation that only serves the PKK.

For the record, Turkey has not given up on the reconciliation process, which certainly could not be continued under the threat of terrorism. Furthermore, contrary to what is portrayed, Turkey is not in combat with a segment of its society, namely its own citizens of Kurdish origin. Turkey is fighting terrorism at the hands of the PKK that switched tactics by moving from rural areas into urban centres to take control of some towns and villages to stage dramatised scenes of revolt and bloodshed. In over two decades, more than 40,000 Turkish citizens fell victim to the PKK’s terrorism. Just a few weeks ago, 16 soldiers and 14 police officers were killed in two attacks within 48 hours. Terrorists post on social media these cowardly attacks for their propaganda – truly an eye-opener about the PKK.

We all know the uneasy feeling when soldiers and members of security forces fall in the line of duty. They become our martyrs. No country could stay indifferent to threats to its security, disturbance to public order, and undermining of the rule of law. Turkey’s right of self-defence against terrorism is undeniable and non-negotiable, and Turkey stands resolved to safeguard all of its citizens against all forms of terrorism. Hence, operations by our security forces will continue against the PKK to consolidate the rule of law and rights and liberty for all.

Turkey is a staunch partner in the fight against international terrorism in all its forms and manifestations. In this collective effort, we have been warning our allies and friends about the breeding ground for terrorists and radicals, which exacerbate the humanitarian tragedy that we are acutely witnessing today.

The ever-deteriorating conditions in Iraq and Syria have long-created a favourable environment for the PKK, and now for ISIL, which falsely interprets religion. Having joined the international coalition against ISIL, Turkey now takes the struggle against terrorism to a multitude of fronts. Our selected airbases assist in targeted coalition strikes. Additionally, domestic and cross-border operations against ISIL and the detaining of hundreds of its members have comprised the initial wave of Turkey's stance against it. All the while, we keep our principled view that past acts of terrorist organisations situated in the region cannot be overlooked as they try to become convenient partners in the charge against ISIL. They should be duly treated, not with distinction.

Turkey is also at the front lines in the global struggle to curb the phenomenon of foreign terrorist fighters. Over 20,000 people from about 100 countries make up our no-entry list, which is indicative of the lure and network of extremists for recruitment as well as their capabilities in the financing of terrorism.

Only full support, timely coordination and true exchange among allies, partners and friends would effectively counter the evolving international terrorism. Turkey is doing its share.

M Levent Bilgen is the ambassador of Turkey to the UAE