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Rise of ISIS Threat in Turkey and an Alarming City: Kilis

Ümit Öztürk

History is not only made by societies, but it also makes and transforms societies. A sudden historical change may completely alter or reshape individual or societal well-being. At first, people may not be aware of the seriousness of the historical change emerging around and surrounding them. As long as they don’t confront directly with problems, they may not realize “What maintains or destroys their individual or societal well-being?” There may be a lot of parameters to be considered to answer this question. A more holistic approach can be taken with the word “conjuncture” which implies the juxtaposition of all the circumstances experienced by different societies within the national/international politics and social institutions. Regarding the subject, different explanations can be developed from the various disciplines. However; if to talk about our own reality and the ongoing conflict in Syria since 2011, a “state of war” is a specific historical parameter affecting the current well-being of the people on a large geography.

With a specific reference to the nature of wars, American Sociologist C. W. Mills[1] draws attention to the fact that how “historical change, institutional contradiction, big ups and downs of the societies” influence the conditions in which people enjoyed their everyday lives once upon a time. Mills highlights the situation using the following words: “When wars happen, an insurance salesman becomes a rocket launcher; a store clerk, a radar man; a wife lives alone; a child grows up without a father.”

As an attracting excerpt by a Syrian’s reflection when this change began, the following words may reflect the nature of this process: “At first [in 2011 when the conflict started] we used to hear just a few explosions and expect that things will settle down soon. In time, rocket bombs hit our houses and we began to realize the seriousness of the situation. Then, we had to abandon our homeland.”

The words above are narrated from the Syrian refugees and you can hear similar words when you listen to their stories and visit their subtle world. Five years passed but conflicts haven’t been solved yet in Syria even after the Syrian Parliamentary election on April 13, 2016. Actually the so called ceasefire confirmed by Russia and The USA was nothing but an illusion and warfare is still going on. The problems in the region even could not be frozen and put in the fridge at least for a short time. Actors of the process do not care much about the miseries of the human life in Mid-East and neighboring countries. Rather than finding an exact solution to the problem in Mid-east, European actors are actively involved in the process to stop the influx of the refugees moving towards the European boarders. This is certainly “rational!”

As for Turkey’s alarming city, Kilis; it is not difficult to confront with the similar realities and Western stances. Especially for the last five months, rockets fired from the region controlled by ISIS have hit Kilis and caused tens of dead and wounded. Recently, it has been reported in the media that ISIS clearly explained its intentions in some cities like Kilis and Gaziantep since Turkey is regarded as the enemy by the Islamic State. Things are not going well in the city; therefore the situation even triggers an internal migration. People are anxious and social institutions from education to economy are not in good conditions. Inspired by Gultekin’s article[2] on what’s cooking in Kilis, I will repeat the famous saying in Latin: “De te fabula narratur (Of you the tale is told)”. Karl Marx, on analyzing the contradictions of the capitalism in England, also addressed to the German society with that quotation, “Of you the tale is told”. Although the word “tale” in general may be the connotation of the word “fiction”, it means reality in this case. The tales about Syria have been a part of our reality for five years not only because of the refugees but also ISIS threat within the national borders. Nowadays especially in Kilis there have been alarming realities which should be confronted and dealt with in the shortest time. Words quoted from Mills and words narrated from the Syrian refugees explain some of the realities in Kilis, as well. In fact, the Syrian conflict and ISIS terrorist activities have turned into a global reality. After the ISIS terrorist attacks in metropolitan cities such as Ankara, İstanbul, Paris and Brussels, ISIS caused a trauma on the global scale; thus, created daunted and scared societies. People are scared in the metros and crowded places like shopping centers. Even this situation can be named as agoraphobia, a kind of phobia of going out. To get back to the main point, the alarming city in Turkey; nowadays people are nervous and anxious about their future in Kilis.

No need to spell disaster; however drawing the attention to the potential problems and social trauma in Kilis is a responsibility for us in order to remind the authorities to take the necessary precautions. Turkey has to defend its borders and citizens. In this regard, the question is “During the ongoing crisis in Turkish-Russian relations, can Turkey comfortably defend Kilis when Russia encircles the region like a python?” In this conjuncture, it wouldn’t even be surprising to see the little ISIS Matryoshka doll inside the big Russian Matryoshka, if it could be opened. “Win-win policy” and the motto of “enemy of my enemy is my friend” may well explain this potential cooperation. Both parties may consider this connection as a highly advantageous and practical one to realize their goals in the region. So what should be done? Playing the game according to the rules is of great importance for Turkish foreign policy. Taking an action without a support from the NATO or UN may result in the loss of social, political energy and reputation. Above all, this challenge may cause new rise in the death toll of civilians and military personnel as well as fueling the crisis between Turkey and Russia.

In his column, Gurcan[3] from Al-Monitor asks “Will Turkey ask NATO for help defending against IS rockets?” and says “In the coming days, what happens at Kilis and how the town and its people are defended will be a test for the Turkish government and its armed forces in appeasing the nation, and will measure the sincerity of the United States and NATO toward Turkey.” Of course Turkey does not need an intervention in its national politics, however if Turkey is a part of NATO or other global organizations like United Nations, what are they doing and why don’t they choose up their sides honestly? Rightfully, some Turkish academics and intellectuals after Charlie Hebdo event accused Western authorities since they united for the Europe but ignored the massacres out of their borders, especially in Syria. We are inarguably sorry for the massacres washed the streets with blood in European capitals but also angry with the hesitant and ambivalent Western stances towards the realities in the Mid-East and nowadays in Turkey’s Kilis.

In brief, by means of the prospective policies regarding the ISIS threat, Turkey will not only test the sincerity of its alleged international allies but also determine the extent of the well-being of people in Kilis and in general Turkey. An important historical responsibility is on the shoulders of both the national and international actors. Self-criticism is a necessity for Turkish foreign policy to think about what Turkish Republic has done right or wrong until now? In addition, ISIS terror may seem to concern neighboring counties in Mid-East, especially Syria, Iraq and Turkey for now, yet one more reminder for the Western actors ends this article with the same warning: “De te fabula narratur”. 


[1] Mills, C. W. (2000). The Sociological Imagination. New York, USA: Oxford University Press.

[2] Gültekin, M. N., "Yeni Başlayanlar İçin Kilis (1): Ne oldu, Ne Oluyor, Ne Olabilir?", April 26, 2016. http://www.birikimdergisi.com/guncel-yazilar/7645/yeni-baslayanlar-icin-kilis-1-ne-oldu-ne-oluyor-ne-olabilir#.VzzPDvl95dg

[3] Gürcan, M., "Will Turkey ask NATO for help defending against IS rockets?", April 26, 2016. Read more: http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2016/04/turkey-syria-isis-katyusha-rockets-kilis.html#ixzz48lgte6g5

ISIS Kilis Syria Turkey