'Turks kidnapped by ISIS come from one of the biggest mistakes of the Turkish govt’
RT:Why are people in Turkey blaming their own government for facilitating the rise of extremists in Syria that are now fighting with ISIS in Iraq?
Hussein Bagchi: I think the general perception is that Turkish support for radical groups both in Syria and in Iraq is very interesting, despite the fact that the government rejects this type of support. However, the Turkish government, particularly in Syria, is entertaining strong and close relations with Islamic groups. Concerning ISIS, I think that the problem is that the ISIS is now controlling the areas where the other two commands are located and they move further in the direction of Baghdad, and of course they are mostly Sunni groups. This is something we also have in Turkey, a perception that the Turkish government until now has not used word “terrorist” for ISIS but rather speaking about the certain elements of the Islamic groups.
RT:Why do you think the jihadist militants targeted the Turkish consulate in Mosul?
HB: I think it is still forbidden in Turkey to make any reports about this issue, the government has taken this decision. Surprisingly, the General Consul is my student, he graduated from my department. I think for the General Consul and Turkish people there is a big domestic problem here and it is one of the biggest mistakes of the government. In public the Turkish government is strongly criticized for not handling this issue at least until now very cleverly. The government says that it knows where they are located but more than two weeks have passed and we don’t know what is the latest situation concerning the Turkish General Consul and the people from the Consulate. In Turkey we do not have any news, the government does not give any information except saying that they are alive and “we know where they are”.
RT:Some 80 Turkish citizens have been kidnapped by ISIS. What are the authorities doing to solve this situation?
HB: I think in Turkish terms, the government says they are not kidnapped; they are now “guests of honor” of the ISIS. It’s like a joke. They are kidnapped and are certainly in the hands of ISIS, but the government still does not say that they are kidnapped, they say they are just kept there as guests of ISIS. Probably the Turkish government is trying to negotiate and even in certain cases provide certain money to those groups in order to free them. On the other hand, ISIS probably also wants to make use of it and try to blackmail the Turkish government. It is a very unpleasant situation. From the point of international law those 80 Turkish people have been kidnapped by ISIS, this is the fact.
RT:Do you think there's a serious risk of extremists attacking Turkey?
HB: I don’t think so. First of all, Turkey is a NATO country; Turkey is enjoying the support of all the Western countries. ISIS is not a regular army; the Turkish army is still able to protect the Turkish borders. It is most probably a speculation that ISIS could attack Turkey. From a military point of view it is not possible.
RT:How has Turkish policy changed following the Iraq militant surge?
HB: The Iraqi government at the moment with the help of the US is trying to remove the ISIS forces from certain cities and stop their advance. I think the Turkish government is also trying to stay neutral in this framework and give the impression that they support the central government of Mr. Maliki.
I think Turkey is not directly supporting ISIS or providing technical help so openly, but we know that the Turkish government has been friendly to those groupings, and those groupings also abuse of course this sympathy of the Turkish government. The fact is that ISIS is very dangerous organization and most of the Turcomans in northern Iraq are also under threat of the ISIS forces, and many Turcomans have been killed. Turkey cannot do anything to save the lives of those people, so there the Kurdish Peshmerga came into the picture and Mr. Barzani [Prime Minister of the Iraqi Kurdistan Regional Government (IKRG) –RT] is now protector of the Turcomans rather than Turkey.
RT:And what’s about official Turkish stand on Syria? Any changes here?
HB: It is very difficult. In Syria Turkey is supporting or at least giving an impression that the Turkish government is supporting the Islamist groupings against President Bashar Assad, but Syria is different from Iraq. In Iraq the ISIS forces have a different structure from that in Syria and they are now much stronger because some other Baathist groups are supporting ISIS. I think the Turkish government’s policy change is to be expected. Again, we do not know anything about this because in Turkey there is no permission to report or to talk about this by government decree. So we do not know whether there is a change of the government’s position, what ISIS is expecting from Turkey, what negotiations are going on. We see information about some forces, we can estimate what is going on but we do not have the exact knowledge and information, [only] the government and the Turkish diplomats have this.
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