IT is no longer news that, for some time now, the radical terrorist group, the Islamic State, also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), has been terrorizing several parts of the world. The group, which still control swathes of areas in Syria and Iraq where it originated from, has been spreading its signature violence and religious radicalism across international boarders even as far as Nigeria, where a faction of Boko Haram terrorists has pledged its allegiance to the dreaded self-acclaimed jihad group.
Today, elements of ISIS and its affiliates are said to be commanding presence in no little ways in many countries, including Turkey. Turkey has been one of the major victims of ISIS attacks. The country has been hit severally by suicide bombers and blood-thirsty ISIS members, resulting in the death of hundreds of Turks and wanton destruction of property. The regular influx of refugees into the country from its southern neighbours, Iraq and Syria. as a result of the group activities has also taken a massive toll on Turkey.
However, like a Janus, the Roman god that is usually depicted as having two faces, Turkey’s President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, appears to be having a double dealings on taking the fight to ISIS. He has instead prefer a cosmetic approach in tackling the terrorist group. Erdogan had once closed Incirlik Air Base that was being used by United States to launch attacks against the Islamic State, thereby grounding flights and cutting off power.
Apart from allowing Islamic State fighters to regularly have a free passage through Turkey’s porous borders, while at the same time claiming to be raining torrents of bombs on ISIS, Erdogan’s subtle support for the group manifested in faraway Albania few days ago where a teacher working at a Turkish government-funded religious school conversed with a student about how the ISIS militants sought to protect Islam and “provide protection to the Muslim people of Syria, Palestine, and Egypt.”
The teacher, in the Erdogan and his ruling AK Party sponsored school, was shown by the private television station TVKlan debating with students and making “strong statements in favour of the notorious ISIS organisation and the former leader of the terrorist organisation al-Qaida, Bin Laden,” said the statement from the Albanian police anti-terror department.
It is highly disturbing that a school being financed by the Turkish government is now trying to brainwash innocent children to believe on the evil-laced agenda of ISIS. Scores of Albanians are believed to have joined ISIS in the past few years, and only God knows if some teachers in the school in question do not play any role in breeding new members and sympathisers for ISIS. About two-thirds of Albania’s 3 million people are Muslims. Though mainstream religious leaders have always urged believers not to join the terrorist organisation .
But many are not too surprised that a school being sponsored by Erdogan is in the eyes of the storm regarding support for Islamic radicalism. The Turkish president has a penchant for using religion as a tool to achieve his obsession for authoritarian power. Since his assumption of power in 2003, Erdoğan has continued to use Islam to justify his increasingly despotic rule, and to appeal to his conservative base on the need to crack down on opposing views. With his successful bid for president in 2014, he began to use his position, shaped by a unique form of nationalistic and patriarchal Islamism, to oppress other ethnic and religious groups.
Many believe that the Turkish president can go to any length to stir up support for dreaded groups, even in other countries, to achieve his major political goal of silencing opponents and be a major entrepreneur of dictatorial rule. Turkey’s Kurdish community (around 18 per cent of Turkey’s population) and members of the Gülen Movement, inspired by the United States based Turkish cleric, Fethullah Gulen, appear to be a major target of Erdogan. The Turkish president accused the Gulen Movement for the July 15, 2016 aborted coup that seek to topple his government even as the highly respected Gulen has denied any involvement.
While ISIS has not failed to claim responsibility for some of the major attacks in Turkey, and keeps waging vicious attacks from few kilometres away from Turkey’s soil, Erdogan is either more concerned with linking some of the violence to Gulen movement or spending the state’s military resources battling Turkish and Syrian Kurds, even though Syrian Kurds are backed by the United States, which supports them precisely because they are fighting the Islamic State.
It is high time Erdogan purged himself of insincerity and religious rhetoric in the fight against ISIS and joined forces with other leaders to bring enduring peace to Turkey, the Middle-East and the various parts of the world.
- Yakob, a public affair analyst, writes in from Minna, Niger State.
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