One of the defining characteristics of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s Turkey is its complete obliviousness to the precedent its leadership creates. Five years ago, for example, Erdoğan visited the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and said, “It is a natural and constitutional right for Macedonia to use that name [Macedonia]…. Macedonia’s decision to use its name should be respected.” On this, I happen to agree with Erdoğan, but does Erdoğan extend the same right to Kurds to call their homeland Kurdistan? Precedent dictates he should, but Erdoğan is a hypocrite: Good luck to any Kurd who refers to Diyarbakir as a city in Kurdistan.
Then, of course, there is the issue of Hamas. Erdoğan has openly embraced the Palestinian terrorist group for a decade, feting their most militant leaders in Ankara and pushing back on U.S. and European criticism by saying Hamas deserved legitimacy: It won an election, had popular support, and sought national liberation. He encouraged Turks to bypass the lawful blockade of Gaza to provide humanitarian assistance. Put aside the irony that Gaza surpasses Turkey in key demographic and health indicators. Bring up the plight of the Kurds, though, and the Turkish response is bluster and hypocrisy. If any foreign power sought to deliver even humanitarian supplies direct to the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) or its civilian political proxies, Turkey would consider it an act of war. At the very least, Erdoğan’s Hamas precedent means that no Western government should consider the PKK to be a terrorist group.
The latest bit of hypocrisy courtesy of Turkey’s leadership is that the United States must be responsible for the July 15 coup attempt because Fethullah Gülen, the man fingered by Erdoğan as responsible, lives in exile in Pennsylvania. Put aside the fact that the Erdoğan regime has provided no evidence: the logic is simply bizarre. In the United States judicial context, suspicion and political animosity are not synonymous with guilt. Still, the logic behind the statement of Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım today is worth considering: If the United States is culpable for the attempted coup in Turkey because an ailing 75-year-old cleric lives isolated in the Poconos, then is Turkey legally responsible for Hamas attacks against Israelis and Americans because Hamas now calls Turkey home? If so, perhaps it’s time for victims of real terrorism to lawyer up and go after Turkish assets. Should they do so, their best witnesses might be Erdoğan and his proxy Binali Yıldırım.