ISIS crisis on Turkey’s borders: Hostages and refugees

There was good news this week in a world with so much bad news: One of the world’s largest hostage crises since the 1979 Tehran hostage crisis, ended on Saturday. After 101 days in captivity, Turkish diplomats who were being held as hostages by ISIS returned home safe and sound. The world has been watching American and British hostages being beheaded, but why were Turkish diplomats freed?

We heard faint voices claiming Turkey paid a ransom for the hostages, or Turkey was already in cooperation with ISIS or that Turkey buys oil from ISIS controlled regions on the “black market.” Let me tackle these claims briefly.

America and our European allies should stop thinking that ISIS can be defeated militarily, but learn from Turkey

Ceylan Ozbudak

I do not believe that Turkey is in cooperation with ISIS; on the contrary, ISIS keeps complaining about the high number of members being held in custody right before they are deported. Turkey has been in cooperation with the EU countries, Britain primarily, to stop new recruits from crossing into Iraq or Syria. On September 11th, Turkey deported 830 Europeans trying to join ISIS. Buying ISIS oil on the “black market” is an entirely baseless claim, according to my information. First, Turkey has pipelines in northern Iraqi territory by which oil was exported long before ISIS took control of the area. Secondly, Turkey is actively collaborating with the U.S. against ISIS’ oil trade, which means Turkey is playing this game with all her cards on the table. So it’s time we rule out these claims. On the other hand, both Turkey and ISIS refuted claims of a ransom having been paid to return the diplomats. Would Turkey pay ransom for the lives of 49 diplomats? Yes, I feel. Human life is priceless and Turkey has shown this attitude in its response to the immense refugee influx.

One very important facet of foreign policy engineering is historical background, which I mentioned in my previous article. Some publications in the West keep forgetting the 650 year-long Ottoman legacy. Mosul had been under Ottoman control for four centuries and under heavy Turkish influence after Saddam Hussein. There are centuries-old Arab and Turkey -loyalist Kurdish tribes in Turkey and Iraq. The famous Turkish intelligence gathering on land is mostly due to the soft power of MIT over the people in the territory and its influence of these tribes. This is a form of human intelligence (HUMINT) unmatched by satellite intelligence or threats to bomb the whole area with no particular plan - the power of being able to simply sit down with people over tea and win their hearts, not their fears and provoke grievances. My dissenters will accuse me of over-simplifying the matter but essentially, the way in which the whole area was kept under control for centuries was this simple - through agreements with tribal leaders.

A certain ideology

Contrary to common belief, ISIS is not a group of wild and unorganized people. They are under the influence of a certain ideology. There is a certain set of rules they obey. It seems that they derive their ideology from the fabricated hadith in certain sectarian books and according to these, Turks are a Sunni population who are not militarily at war with them, therefore in their thinking killing them is impermissible. Turkey is taking ISIS members into custody and deporting them, Turkey is imprisoning ISIS members, stopping new recruits from reaching them, cooperating with the Western countries and according to ISIS, the Turkish government is null and void. But as long as Turkey is not in a military war with ISIS, they are not allowed to murder Turks who did not take up arms against them. Turkey knows these codes, and implements them in its policy towards the ISIS. This is not the first time the state has dealt with a radical group. As long as Western nations pretend that these codes, this ideology and this manner of thinking doesn’t exist, ISIS will only get stronger.

This was not the only action on the Turkey border this week. As ISIS clashed with the YPG/PKK in the PKK controlled area and took control of at least 64 villages in Kobane, tens of thousands of Kurds fled to Turkey. As I am writing this article, the U.N. announced the number of Kurds crossing border to Turkey already reached 70, 000 on Saturday and the number rose to 100,000 by Sunday. This event proved that in an actual war with ISIS, which is not supported by U.S. airstrikes concentrated on a certain area, PKK fighters seem to be helpless and inefficient. As the PKK fighters left, they left their brand new weaponry, just arrived from Europe, to fall into the hands of ISIS and ISIS fighters did not hesitate to take triumphant pictures with the brand new loot. I remember writing the PKK cannot defeat ISIS since even though both apply guerilla warfare methods; ISIS is stronger in its erroneous ideology.

When we come back to the Kurdish refugees, the Disaster and Emergency Management Presidency (AFAD) stated, “This flow is one of the biggest influx of refugees Turkey has received since the Syrian civil war started more than three years ago.” Necessary measures are being taken to help our Kurdish guests and their humanitarian needs are being met by the Turkish authorities. This brings us to the question of what would happen if a buffer zone had been established two years ago. Turkey has been pressing the U.S. and the UNSC to help Ankara establish a buffer-zone along its border with Syria to provide more effective humanitarian aid. As ISIS is gaining ground, this offer is once again on the table.

America and our European allies should stop thinking that ISIS can be defeated militarily, but learn from Turkey's knowledge of unwritten regional codes. Iraq and Syria are our neighbors. We feel the winds of war most directly, as we are not an ocean away in Washington, DC. America and Europe should not bring more weapons and pour further fuel onto a region already on fire.

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Ceylan Ozbudak is a Turkish political analyst, television presenter, and executive director of Building Bridges, an Istanbul-based NGO. As a representative of Harun Yahya organization, she frequently cites quotations from the author in her writings. She can be followed on Twitter via @ceylanozbudak

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Last Update: Wednesday, 20 May 2020 KSA 09:45 - GMT 06:45
Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.
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