A photo taken on the border between Turkey and Syria shows smoke billowing from targets bombed by Turkish forces. Picture: AP/Cavit Ozgul
A photo taken on the border between Turkey and Syria shows smoke billowing from targets bombed by Turkish forces. Picture: AP/Cavit Ozgul

Our ties with Turkey run deeper than Trump

As an Australian-Turk, I am both concerned and relieved with Turkey's operation into Northern Syria.

But I am also puzzled with the reaction to it, both in Australia and abroad.

War means pain and suffering, and as a journalist I witnessed this first hand in Iraq and Afghanistan during the early 2000s.

Now, the unfolding situation in the region, which is a result of wrong policies drawn at cozy think tank offices in DC, affects everyone of us here in Australia, just as it affects our friends and families in Turkey and other innocent people in the region.

My nephew and his friends in Istanbul just graduated from university, dreaming big things. Some of them doing their military service are in the firing line of guns and ammunition supplied to the PKK-YPG by Turkey's NATO allies. The same allies that the Turkish army shed its blood for on battlefields from Korea to Afghanistan.

Many young Turks are graduating from university only to find themselves in the firing line of guns and ammunition. Picture: AP Photo
Many young Turks are graduating from university only to find themselves in the firing line of guns and ammunition. Picture: AP Photo

My friends from Diyarbakir are concerned too, as children kidnapped by PKK from their extended families will be pushed to the front lines against the Turkish army, ordered to carry out suicide attacks. We saw PKK/YPG units firing indiscriminately to civilian areas across the border. Civilian casualties mounting, as the PKK/YPG continues to see it as an acceptable collateral to their objectives.

I am concerned because each and every time Turkey launches a big operation against the PKK, their sympathisers and former members target our diaspora communities with violent attacks. Such attacks happened over the weekend in Germany. Three German-Turks were injured at a coffee shop in Villingen.

Commentators, members of the media and opportunist politicians are portraying the operation as if it were an ethnic one, Turks attacking Kurds. The argument is akin to claiming the global war on terrorism, al-Qaeda and ISIS, is a war on Islam.

The Australian-Turkish community may be divided on many issues, but this is one issue that unites a larger group of Australian-Turks than any other.

Our anger against PKK/YPG and its supporters stems not from the 40,000 lives lost during their campaign to establish a communist party rule within the borders of a NATO country, but because they are the biggest obstacle for peace in the region for almost half a century.

The PKK campaign cost to the Turkish economy is over $2.96 trillion.

The PKK operatives detonated car bombs outside busy bus stations in Turkey's capital. Dozens of dismembered bodies lay on the main streets of Ankara. Many barely noticed it here in Sydney, when my friend in Auburn was grieving the loss of his uncle in that attack. The bomber was recruited at a university campus, trained in PKK camps in Syria.

Donald Trump did not betray Kurds by redeploying the U.S. troops protecting the PKK-YPG. It is in fact, the Obama administration who betrayed the people of Turkey and the global coalition against terrorism by arming PKK-YPG.

The ANZAC brethren between Turkey and Australia has been going on over 105 years. Picture: supplied
The ANZAC brethren between Turkey and Australia has been going on over 105 years. Picture: supplied

The US effectively told Turkey 'your terrorist is not my terrorist' by arming PKK and taking us back to pre-9/11 times.

The world is certainly a more dangerous place now that the coalition of liberal democracies against terrorism founded after 9/11 has been shattered.

We must ask our politicians in Canberra, who are critical of Turkey at such a juncture, what would they do if they were to deal with such security issues?

As much as our government has the right and obligation to defend us, with operations in Afghanistan, Iraq, or elsewhere in South East Asia, Turkey has the right and obligation to defend my dad in Izmir, my friend in Diyarbakır and my sister in Istanbul, by taking action to defend them against a terrorist organisation sitting on its border and resettling millions of refugees to their homes and villages across Syria.

The ANZAC brethren between the two countries has been going on over 105 years, and we should not let short term opportunism to undermine such relationship, which is the envy of all the world.

Baris Atayman is the Australian-Turkish Advocacy Alliance executive secretary.



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