Who is dealing with the biggest humanitarian crisis of our times? Who is truly fighting DAESH?

 By H.e. Selçuk Ünal, 
Ambassador Of Turkey To Canada

Turkey is at the centre of the response to the humanitarian crisis in Syria-Iraq by hosting 3.5 million vulnerable. The total cost passed 30 billion USD – with no international assistance in the biggest refugee crisis since World War II.

The additional challenge and threat we face today is terrorism. Turkey have had endured some terrorist attacks against its civilians. While eliminating this threat, Turkey has also played a pivotal role as part of the International Coalition Against DAESH (ISIL) since its formation. We have labeled DAESH as a terrorist organization in 2005, long before many allies, banned 60,000 suspected foreigners from entering Turkey, deported almost 10,000, brought over 1,000 foreign terrorist fighters to justice. Operation Euphrates Shield aimed at clearing our borders from DAESH in 2016 was instrumental in creating a safe zone in a 2,000 km area liberating 250 towns from DAESH. 120,000 Syrians returned to their homes. Together with the return of the IDPs total population there thrived to 720,000.

The challenges were not limited to refugees. Turkey repeatedly warned its allies against the terrorist activities of YPG (People’s Protection Units) in Syria. Instead of listening our legitimate security concerns, we saw some of our NATO allies using YPG against DAESH. They were armed and trained as a 30.000-member “border army”, provided 4,000 containers of sophisticated anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles presumably against DAESH who has no tanks or aircraft even before its defeat. A terrorist organization should not be used to fight another terrorist organization. This was proved in November 2017 by BBC reports on YPG’s providing safe escape corridors for DAESH during siege on Raqqa.

Today Turkey is conducting Operation Olive Branch against both YPG/PKK and DAESH. In 2017 alone, 316 Turkish civilians were killed in 700 terrorist attacks carried out from Afrin, currently controlled by YPG which accepts to be part of PKK — a terrorist organization enlisted in EU, US and Canada.

Turkey is accused of “attacking Kurds in a peaceful area inhabited by civilians”. Arms captured at the operations prove otherwise. Thinking that a country, caring 3.5 million civilians including Kurds from Syria-Iraq, woke up one morning and decided to “attack Kurds” is a poor introduction of the case. There are more than 300,000 Syrians of Kurdish origin sheltered in Turkey with some fleeing Afrin. Could it be due to YPG’s banning different Kurdish political groups in the area? Or their ethnic cleansing as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have reported? As of today, no independently verified civilian casualty was reported due to Operation Olive Branch. All photos shared by sympathizers of YPG/PKK on social media have been proven to be taken from already reported past incidents, in different areas, on different dates. But, one would easily find YPG/PKK terrorists dressed as civilians in residential areas launching attacks to Turkey. YPG is obstructing the civilians who wish to leave the theater of operations as UN said.

Concerns for humanitarian issues are groundless. Turkey announced that it will establish a shelter camp for 170,000 IDPs within the Afrin area.

Turkey has been working closely with all partners to reach peace. Maintaining the territorial integrity of Syria while clearing it from terrorists is our top priority. These are the times we must stay resilient against the present and emerging challenges. Conditions of chaos and the terror groups turning into state-like entities can no longer be taken lightly. Terror groups are not fighting their way to freedom, but for their domination of helpless people who happen to have ended up in a failed state.

Addressing the challenges of the worst humanitarian crisis is no easy task. We in the Western world need to do more in terms of burden-sharing. Unfortunately, except Canada, many countries closed their doors to refugees. Seeing Canada, rising up to this global challenge and demonstrating leadership by welcoming Syrians provides hope.