Update: Turkish police have clashed with Kurdish demonstrators in Kurd populated provinces in Turkey, with up to 30 protesters feared dead. Fighter planes also attacked suspected Kurdish PKK buildings. Turkey continues to refuse to assist the Kurds in their fight against ISIS and in particular their defence of the border city of Kobani.
To observe war crimes at close hand but to not intervene, is itself a war crime, according to the Geneva Convention. For the past few weeks the Syrian-Turkish border city of Kobani, populated largely by Kurds, has been under sustained attack by ISIS, with reports of more beheadings, mutilations and rape. Yet Turkish tanks lined up on the hillside overlooking the city have stood idle. Moreover, in its zeal to weaken Assad and limit Kurdish ambitions, Turkey allowed ISIS to flourish and if another massacre by ISIS takes place at Kobani, or elsewhere on or near the Turkish border, then Turkey should be regarded as complicit.
For many months Turkey allowed – even encouraged – ISIS supporters from the West to cross its border with Syria to fight Assad, Turkey’s enemy. At the same time it has blocked Kurds – who Turkey, together with Iraq, Iran and Syria, has persecuted for centuries – from crossing its borders to fight ISIS, mainly to prevent the Kurds from establishing some form of autonomy.Kurds protesting in Turkey against Turkish inaction has seen casualties.
With further inaction by Turkey we may well, as one commentator has put it, see another Guernica. But there is no equivalent of an International Brigade to support the Kurds (or the Yazidis, or the other minorities in their plight). And this is not Spain 1936, though there is genocide taking place – and potentially on a much larger scale.
Every week we read about these massacres – of Kurds, Shias, Yazidis and others – but as such atrocities become commonplace, they also become the norm. And when they become the norm and interventions fail to stop them, people begin to lose interest. And when people lose interest, they lose their humanity. In losing their humanity those people then become the antithesis of the very compassion they applauded of the murdered aid worker Alan Henning.
And, so, uncomfortable as it may be, the question must be asked: just where lies the difference between the barbaric practices of ISIS and the abdication to end these crimes to governments whose interests are merely geo-political?
For it is not just Turkey that shares the guilt here, but also the regional players – Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, etc – and financiers who backed ISIS and, in the wider context, those major powers in the West through their wars in the region and their bungled interventions – first pro then anti Saddam, or Assad, etc – helped create this amoral monster.