Plucky little Turkey standing up to evil Syria? It's not as simple as that

The Long View: Turkey is funnelling weapons and armed men across the border into Syria

Share
Related Topics

How the government howled. With the help of a neighbouring state, "terrorists" were trying to destroy the government and its army, blowing up and murdering its supporters. "Terrorists" were crossing the international border, arms were being shipped over the frontier and given to rebels fighting the government, "non-lethal" aid was being sent to the opposition. I couldn't help remembering this when I crossed that same border four days ago. Not from Turkey into Syria, but from the Irish Republic into Northern Ireland.

There, to the left of the Newry road on a plateau of rock and green grass, lay the broken wire-mesh anti-mortar screen which once guarded the fortress where British troops – so often attacked by the IRA from Dundalk in the Republic – guarded the border. When the British-supported government of Northern Ireland turned on its Catholics in 1969, thousands of Catholic refugees flooded across the border into the Republic. Sound familiar? When British paratroopers were ambushed at Warrenpoint, soldiers fired back across the border at a "terrorist". He wasn't a terrorist, but an innocent holidaymaker. The IRA gave press conferences in pleasant Dublin suburbs and, oh my, the British government howled.

Odd how these things get forgotten. Now it is plucky little Turkey, hosting the opposition to the Syrian regime, funnelling weapons and armed men across the border into Syria – encouraging the overthrow of Bashar al-Assad – which is the victim. The IRA's' "terrorism" against the occupying Brits has been transmogrified into the valiant Syrian resistance against a vile Alawite-led regime whose Baathist acolytes must be crushed in order to bring democracy to Damascus, etc, etc.

Now the usual caveat – which will be forgotten by those who wish to accuse the writer of being a member of the Syrian intelligence service: Bashar al-Assad is a despot, his regime is awful, its policemen torture on a scale that would stun the RUC thugs who beat up their Catholic prisoners in Castlereagh, and Syrian militias fill mass graves; there were no mass graves in Northern Ireland.

BUT. When it comes to international law, to moral compromise, to sheer hypocrisy, the Western powers take the biscuit. La Clinton raves on about Syrian depravity when Syrian shells slaughter a Turkish woman and her four children – which they did – but gives succour to the gunmen who torture and kill and suicide-bomb the regime's supporters inside Syria. Clinton's predecessors at the State Department took a quite different view about Northern Ireland. William Hague rabbits on about our "non-lethal" aid to Syrian rebels; but didn't the Irish authorities give "non-lethal aid" (bandages, funds, intelligence information) to our political and military enemies in Northern Ireland?

Typically, Al-Jazeera – to which I sometimes contribute my two-pence worth of thought – was the first channel to cover the response of local Turks to the killing of the family in Akçakale: they blamed their own Turkish government for using the village as a jumping off point for rebels entering Syria – and thus turning their town into a target.

And another story that isn't being told. Syrian shells exploding in Turkey are largely landing in the province of Hatay (Akçakale is further east), but what is not being reported is that until 1939, Hatay was part of Syria – and that Syria still claims this coastal province as Syrian territory. The real story – since it involves Europe and Hitler – should be told. For hundreds of years, this territory was Syrian. Alexandretta (now Iskenderun) was the finest port in Syria. But as the power of Nazi Germany grew in the 1930s, the French, who then held the League of Nations mandate for Syria, decided to hand the whole place over to the Turks – in the hope that Turkey would join the Allied side against Hitler.

A fraudulent referendum was held and the mass of Arabs in the province – tens of thousands of them Alawites, who form the backbone of Assad's regime today – fled south, along with an almost equal number of Armenians who had survived the 1915 Turkish genocide. Today, the children and grandchildren of those Armenians tacitly support the Assad regime. Turkey, of course, chose to stay neutral until the very end of the Second World War. Visiting Turkish generals were thus hosted on the Eastern Front by the Nazi Wehrmacht and toured the West Wall before the D-Day invasion as guests of Marshal Erwin Rommel. They were treated with trust and respect, they reported back to Ankara.

Don't expect to hear any of this today. Hatay is Turkish, Hitler is dead. The Newry fortress is long abandoned. The IRA – up to a point – won. Funny thing, history. Here today. Gone tomorrow.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive or Senior Sales Executive - B2B Exhibitions

£18000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Executive or Senior Sal...

Recruitment Genius: Head of Support Services

£40000 - £55000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Warehouse Team Leader

£22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This industry leading company produces h...

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Manager / Sales - OTE £40,000

£20000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT provider for the educat...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Errors & Omissions: the strange case of the errant royal pronoun

Guy Keleny
Flowers and candles are placed at the site where a refrigerated truck with decomposing bodies was found by an Austrian motorway  

EU migrant crisis: The 71 people found dead in a lorry should have reached sanctuary

Charlotte Mcdonald-Gibson
The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

BBC heads to the Californian coast

The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

Car hacking scandal

Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
10 best placemats

Take your seat: 10 best placemats

Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory
Ashes 2015: Alastair Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Aussie skipper Michael Clarke was lured into believing that what we witnessed at Edgbaston and Trent Bridge would continue in London, says Kevin Garside
Can Rafael Benitez get the best out of Gareth Bale at Real Madrid?

Can Benitez get the best out of Bale?

Back at the club he watched as a boy, the pressure is on Benitez to find a winning blend from Real's multiple talents. As La Liga begins, Pete Jenson asks if it will be enough to stop Barcelona
Athletics World Championships 2015: Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jessica Ennis-Hill and Katarina Johnson-Thompson heptathlon rivalry

Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jess and Kat rivalry

The last time the two British heptathletes competed, Ennis-Hill was on the way to Olympic gold and Johnson-Thompson was just a promising teenager. But a lot has happened in the following three years
Jeremy Corbyn: Joining a shrewd operator desperate for power as he visits the North East

Jeremy Corbyn interview: A shrewd operator desperate for power

His radical anti-austerity agenda has caught the imagination of the left and politically disaffected and set a staid Labour leadership election alight
Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief: Defender of ancient city's past was killed for protecting its future

Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief

Robert Fisk on the defender of the ancient city's past who was killed for protecting its future