Erdogan is playing with the fate of millions of refugees and is accepting the suffering of many more. Even worse, he is using refugees as a weapon and as a means of pressure. In the course of the past weeks, lobbyists for Turkey, especially in the USA and in Germany, gave a lot of support for the political strategies of Erdogan. They cannot defend his politics outspokenly, so they demand for unconditional support of Erdogan’s steps against the Kurds, even if he is an enemy to the Western nations. At times, these lobbyists even admit that “Erdogan is a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, who tries to implement its intolerant interpretation of Islam throughout the society; that Erdogan secretly supports the Islamic State (ISIS), which allowed ISIS to infiltrate its new recruits through Turkey; that Erdogan is an authoritarian demagogue who undermines democracy and pushes forward the rule of the radical mob; that Erdogan is an enemy to the Kurds, Christians, and Yazidis, and is carrying out ethnic cleansing in Northern Syria; that Erdogan is antisemitic, trying to weaken the influence of Israel and destroying the country; and finally, that his recent courting of Russia’s favor can be seen as evidence for him using Turkey as the Trojan Horse for Moscow in NATO.”
Those lobbyists hardly name any reason why one should support Erdogan despite his current politics. They simply give one reason: “Turkey is important and has to stay in NATO by all means.” What aims did NATO set for the Middle East? Stability for the region; prevention of Iranian and Russian influence; fighting against terroristic groups, especially ISIS; protecting Europe from refugees; and means to safeguard energy sources and routes, just to point out a few interests of NATO. IN MY function as a human rights activist, I would have liked to name the protection of human rights and rights of minorities as part of the goals of NATO. However, as a German politician used to say, as foreign policy never deals with human rights, but only with the interests of nation-states, I did not recount it as an interest or goal of NATO. When talking about nationwide stability, Erdogan’s politics plunged the region into chaos. Political tensions and conflicts arose with nearly all neighboring states. The only “friendly” terms remaining are with Putin and the mullahs of Iran. Yet, these relations will not bring stability. They rather symbolize an enforced cooperation and a compliance against the Kurds. Like this, the Iranian and Russian influence cannot be contained. The exact opposite is the case: Erdogan’s politics are empowering Iran and Russia, and likewise the Assad-regime in Syria. His groundless and irrational fear of the Kurds is leading Erdogan to the support and toleration of all kinds of radical groups, which is leading to more terror and violence inside the region. This instability and chaos forces people to leave this area, making them set out for Europe. Some 700,000 Yazidis and Christians had to flee Iraq, and 600,000 Kurds, Christians and Yazidis left Afrin and Ras al-Ain in northern Syria.
Erdogan is playing with the fate of millions of refugees and is accepting the suffering of many more. Even worse, he is using refugees as a weapon and as a means of pressure. This applies also to the Islamic terrorists and the religion of Islam, which he uses as a form of pressure against the whole world. To safeguard energy sources or routes, his politics are of no help. Those land routes do not get any safer with these conflicts. Finally, Erdogan is evoking more hostility and hate against Jews and Israel. Turkey evolves into a perfect refuge for radical Islamists and antisemites of any kind. His acting does not only enforce antisemitism in the Middle East, but in the whole world. I use to travel a lot through Germany, talking to many people with origins in “Islamic countries.” More and more I realize that most of the antisemites in Germany are also supporters of Erdogan. Therefore, the attitude of “not bothering Turkey and letting Erdogan deal with the Kurds as he likes: For that, he stays a member of NATO” is fundamentally wrong. Not just from the point of view of a defender of human rights or out of moral reasons, but also from the geopolitical perspective. The Kurdish issue was used and is still being used as an instrument against Turkey by Russia, Iran and other political players. Therefore, it would be more reasonable for the USA, Germany and NATO to mediate between Turkey and the Kurds. We have to help Turkey to get over its paranoid fear of the Kurds. Together with Turkey, we should develop ideas of how to solve the Kurdish question inside and outside the country. The Kurds, even the PKK, do not ask for more than seeing their human and minority rights implemented according to international standards. In order to develop possible solutions for this issue, one has to negotiate with the PKK as well. To strike the PKK off from the “American terrorist list” could be quite helpful. The tale of PKK-terrorism is hanging like a sword of Damocles over the head of everybody willing to solve the Kurdish question peacefully. The writer is Middle East consultant for the Society for Threatened Peoples in Göttingen, Germany.