Turkey’s ‘foreign martyrs’


Burak Bekdil
Turkish politics is struggling harder and harder to go beyond the title of “Absurdistan.” Sadly, not even the sky is the limit.
It is no secret that President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan worships the notion of the “national will,” the sanctity of elected officials and, therefore, their decisions. But he only worships the will of the Turkish nation - and only when he wins at the ballot box. 

The will of the Old Continent last week overwhelmingly voted, in a non-binding resolution, in favor of suspending the European Union’s accession talks with Turkey. Mr. Erdoğan said he could not care less. Suddenly, the will of the nation(s) had lost its appeal. It is the same old Islamist hypocrisy: Support majoritarianism in lands where Muslims make up the majority and support pluralism in lands where they are in minority.

News reporting on Turkish affairs increasingly creates news stories that make readers think the text must have appeared on The Onion, not, for instance, in this newspaper. For instance, take EU Minister Omer Çelik, who recently lashed out at Austrian Chancellor Christian Kern for promoting “extreme right wing and racist” sentiment. Promoting extreme right wing and racist sentiment? Funny, Mr. Çelik speaks like he is a minister in New Zealand.

Or take the opening line in a news story in this newspaper, not from The Onion, “The Turkish defense minister has condemned Austria’s arms embargo on Turkey, saying the decision will fuel motivation in Turkish industry to produce indigenous arms.” No one, apparently, thought about asking the honorable minister why he condemned the Austria’s arms embargo if it will result in something so cheerful for Turkey’s local defense industry.

The Austrian Foreign Ministry missed the golden opportunity to release a press statement that should have said: “Austria finds it difficult to understand why our Turkish friends slammed our decision to impose an arms embargo on Turkey. We took that decision merely to support Turkey’s own defense industry and to fuel the motivation in Turkey for the further production of indigenous arms systems after the successful completion of 100-percent Turkish fighter jets, aircraft carriers, helicopters, drones and tanks.”

Then, on the first anniversary [Nov. 24] of Turkey’s shooting down of a Russian Su-24 warplane along its border with Syria, an unknown aircraft attacked a Turkish military base in northern Syria, killing three troops. Mr. Erdoğan called Russian President Vladimir Putin who, naturally, has no clue about who perpetrated the attack. We are so awfully sorry. Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım vowed retaliation, followed by Turkish aerial attacks against terrorist targets in Syrian territory.

Nevertheless, what went largely unnoticed in the Syrian war theater was a statement from the Turkish military headquarters. The press release came after four “moderate rebels,” supported by Turkey, were killed. It referred to the dead Islamist warriors as “our martyrs.” What martyrs? In the official Turkish lexicon a martyr is a Turkish national who has lost his life when he is defending his homeland (against occupying forces or terrorists). Since when is northern Syria the Turkish homeland? And since when did a bunch of Islamist radicals from across the universe become Turkish nationals defending our homeland? Did the “moderate rebels” die defending Turkish territory?

The explanation is simple: The Turkish military has metamorphosed into a “pragmatic” thinking, in which it so passionately aligns with the dominant Islamist ideology in the country that it views foreign Islamist fighters fighting a sectarian war in a foreign country as “martyrs.” So will it be a Turkish victory if Sunni jihadists fighting in Syria win the war and topple a non-Sunni Arab leader?