When British Prime Minister David Cameron was in Turkey this week he was right to argue that the threat of ISIS must be confronted together. His Turkish counterpart, Prime Minister Davutoğlu, said the two countries shared a ‘strong and common political will’ to tackle the challenge posed by foreign fighters traveling to Syria and Iraq. Mr Cameron’s particular focus was on British (or European) Muslims crossing the border from Turkey to Syria.
When asked by a journalist whether Turkey should do more to stop fighters entering Syria, Mr Cameron said the two countries were already working ‘as closely as we possibly can’ to address this threat. But he also had other issues on his mind; he spoke about dealing with people after they returned from Syria, greater intelligence co-operation between both countries and making people safe in Turkey and Syria.
A concrete policy of creating a specialist hotline between intelligence agencies at its highest level was announced. But is all this enough? In my view no, because Turkey is not just another country bordering Iraq and Syria.
First, by the time they reach Turkey it is almost too late. It is not about crossing the border to Syria (Turkey has stopped hundreds of would-be Islamic militants and sent them back), but about the crossing of the border in their minds back in England. The deeper, more relevant, and long-term challenge is not about stopping them here in Turkey, but to stop them in London, Manchester, Cardiff and Glasgow.
Moreover, it's not just physically stopping them from travelling to Iraq or Syria, but to stop young Muslims from embracing extreme bigotry. It is because they are extremists they want to go and be a part of the violence: They have crossed a border in their minds. A border, which allows them to take the lives of others. A border which leaves no room for compassion, tolerance and acceptance. This is the border we need to stop them from crossing. Otherwise, even if we assume we somehow stopped all of them from joining the ranks of ISIS, these radicalized minds can inflict the same terror in England.
Turkey is not just another country bordering Iraq and SyriaCeylan Ozbudak