Double standards even in dealing with terrorism
The international definition of terrorism is still not clear so far, though the International Criminal Court tried to identify about 21 points subsumed beneath the multiple forms of terrorism, including State terrorism like the one currently practiced by Assad against the Syrian people, Russia in Syria and Ukraine, or Iran in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen. Τhere are also terrorist groups or organizations, with religiously radical views, nationalistic, or racist, and it is up to the international community to classify them.
One week ago, we witnessed two terrorist attacks: one in Istanbul, Turkey and another in Palmyra, Syria. The first attack, with a death toll of more than 45 people - 30 of them policemen - and about 150 wounded, was adopted by an offshoot PKK group, calling itself Kurdistan Freedom Hawks (TAK). The second attack, carried out by ISIS, targeted Palmyra and resulted in taking control of the city and most of its suburbs by the terrorist organization. Despite my thorough research about the number of civilian casualties inside the city, I did not get accurate information. However, it was confirmed to me that most of the civilian population left the city, and many of them were killed because of the Russian aerial bombardment while trying to run away from the ISIS onslaught.
Although both attacks were carried out by terrorist organizations, the difference in approaching these two incidents by the international community falls under the category of double standards.
In a previous article about the role of Assad in the creation and support of ISIS, I talked about the role of his regime in facilitating the transfer of fighters to join extremist organizations, mainly al-Qaeda, in Iraq during the US invasion, and inciting young men to go and fight through some regime-made “men of religion.” At the start of the Syrian revolution in March 2011, Assad connected with the organization in secret through some of the regime agents, and cooperated with it in order to regulate the entry of ISIS members to Syria. Soon, Assad retreated from many of the outposts in the east of Syria, most importantly al-Tbaka airport and military point no. 17 in the countryside of Raqqa, where regime forces withdrew without real battles, leaving behind huge quantities of weapons and tanks.
As everyone knows, the war against terrorism was declared by the US-led Coalition against ISIS in September 2014, with 68 countries participating in it. Since then, the Coalition managed to retrieve some areas from the organization in Iraq and Syria.
ISIS is classified as a terrorist organization because it kills civilians, holds extreme radical racist views, and carries out attacks around the world. The organization was responsible for terrorist bombings in Turkey, France, Saudi Arabia, the Philippines, USA and other countries.
The other side of the coin is TAK which is a Kurdish armed nationalist racist organization which targets mainly Turkey, and is also classified in the list of international terrorist organizations. It is directly linked to the PKK, and we can say that they are the military wing of the Kurdish Workers’ Party in Turkey, like the organization of People’s Protection Units (YPG) and the Kurdish Democratic Union (PYD) operating in northern Syria. Finally, the Apoist Youth Initiative (AYI) should be deemed the military wing of the PKK based in Europe. These Kurdish organizations implement the killing of civilians, as a result of their racist ultranationalist thinking. They are responsible for many terrorist attacks in Turkey, Syria and Europe.
The international community is dealing with the Kurdish terrorist groups strangely separately. Although it included the organization of the PKK in the terrorist list, it allows them to open offices in many European countries, and supports their military organizations in Syria (PYD and YPG) with weapons, aerial and logistics assistance. Note that besides the Assad regime’s "loss of legitimacy", it also supports these organizations indirectly.
These Kurdish terrorist organizations operate under the slogan of giving freedom to the Kurdish people, and the goal to create a Kurdish state, but their actions are a far cry from freedom. Many of their attacks in Turkey killed Kurds, while their prisons in Syria are full of Kurdish politicians opposing their racist ideology. Their recruiting methods include even the abduction of young men and women from their families, the age of some of them not exceeding 16 years.
Having said this about ISIS and the PKK (and its military wings around the world), we can realize the hypocrisy of the international community: fighting the first and supporting the second, knowing that both perpetrate crimes, kill innocent people, and carry out racist ethnic cleansing.
Eva J. Koulouriotis is Greek political analyst specialized in Middle East. Twitter: @evacool_f, Facebook: @evakoulouriotis