REPUBLIKA 3/8, Pg.8 — A while ago, Sutiyoso, chief of the National Intelligence Agency (BIN) said he wanted to open BIN office in Turkey. Why Turkey? What kind of intelligence information BIN could get from Turkey?
BIN seems to have seen the role of Turkey as the traffic for hardliners and terrorists to cross the border into Syria, including a number of Indonesian nationals who want to join the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). Some time ago, the Turkish authorities managed to secure some of the Indonesians and repatriated them to Indonesia. Reportedly, there are now about 500 Indonesians who have joined the ISIL.
Sutiyoso regarded the Turkish border region as the classic route for those who want to join the radical groups in Syria and Iraq. He wanted to break the traffic. “Definitely this is the classic route (for radical groups) to go there through Turkey, “Sutiyoso told the media.
The length of traffic at the Turkish-Syrian border as Sutiyoso mentioned reaches 950 km. The radicals call the route along the border as the Gate of Jihad (Bawwabatu al Jihad).
According to al-Sharq al-Awsat media records, more than 12 thousand young Europeans have gone to Syria to join ISIL. Meanwhile, other sources mention, more than 8,000 national from 20 European countries have fought with ISIL. The question is, how could they arrive at the territory the ISIS controlled?
According to Western sources, including the statement of the French Prime Minister (PM) Carlos Manuel Valls Galfetti and British Prime Minister David Cameron, young Europeans went to Syria through Turkey. Cameron even claimed to have been coordinated with the Turkish authorities to prevent his nationals to go to Syria.
Then, how could Turkey become the gateway for foreign nationals who want to join ISIL? Turkey is a country of tourism. Every year around 40 million foreign tourists visit Turkey. To get foreign tourists as many as possible, Turkey imposes a visa-free (visa on arrival) for tourists from many countries, including Indonesia. Such ease is misused by foreign tourists to join ISIL through the Turkish-Syrian border.
According to Abdul Rahman at Rasyid, the Middle East observer and former chief editor of al-Sharq al-Awsat, a flock of foreigners into Syria began with protests demanding President Bashar Assad to step down along with the emergence of the Arab Spring alias Arab Revolution in 2011. Bashar Assad’s regime responded the protests with violence.
Turkey’s support for the opposition (protesters) at first seemed normal, as they also supported the opposition in many Arab countries. In the first year until mid-second year, the Syrian people’s resistance seemed normal. However, at the end of the second year, the resistance turned into armed resistance as the regime continued to face opposition with violence claiming lives. At that time Ankara kept supporting the opposition, members of the coalition the National Liberation Army of Syria.
Entering the third year, people’s resistance against Bashar Assad’s regime began to falter. The opposition had successfully controlled several regions. The battle continued to escalate. Damascus was surrounded. Since then, two developments happened.
First, Syria got the world attention, especially the Muslim world, such as Bosnia in the 1990s. Millions of refugees and hundreds of thousands of people who died as a result of civil war in Syria had shocked the world. Unfortunately, the international community; the UN, OIC, Arab League, the European Union and other international institutions; failed to give solutions.
Second, the emergence of supports from several countries; Russia, China, Hizbultah (Lebanon), and Iran to help the regime BasharAssad from falling.
Since then, foreigners began to flock to Syria through the Turkish border, both supporters of the opposition and the regime of Bashar Assad, as well as radical groups who wished to join the Jabharu an-Nasrah and ISIL. AnNashrah is another form of al Qaeda in Syria.
At first, silently or openly Ankara deliberately let citizens go into Syria through its borders. In fact, Turkey seemed to take advantage of the existence of “the foreign troops” for Turkish own benefit.
First, Turkey expected the presence of foreign nationals to join the Nashrah and ISIL would weaken Bashar Assad’s regime.
Second, the existence of ISIL was also expected to weaken the position of Kurds in the Syrian-Turkish border as happened in the city of Kobani. For years Turkey has problems with Kurds who continue to demand independence and secession. Middle East observer Amir Thahiri called the Turkish moves as Erdogan’s risky games (La’batu Erdogan al Khatarah).
Such Turkish attitude that seemed to leave its borders open for foreign nationals to get into Syria did not only trigger criticism from the international community, especially the West whose many nationals had joined the ISIL. But it even became a blunder for Turkey itself.
ISIL, as radical group, is not concerned with the nationalism, unitary state, interstate relations, and other moral issues. What interests them is how to rule the world, by all means, including taking people hostage and kill anyone it considers enemy.
Evidently, ISIS did not hesitate to carry out suicide bombings in Turkey. One of the bombings happened in Suruc City, Turkey, killing 32 people a few days ago. This action was carried out in retaliation for Turkey which has stopped foreign nationals who want to join ISIL in Syria and closed Turkish-language ISIL websites. Abdul Rahman al-Rashid called the suicide bombing as ISIL’s Coup in Turkey (Daisy ala al Atrak).
Turkey then retaliated by launching air strike to various ISIL targets. Many welcomed the change in Turkey’s attitude and expected it would weaken the ISIL and change the map of power in Iraq and Syria, even in the Middle East.
With such Turkish strategic position, we also support Sutiyoso to open BIN office in Turkey. We expect the existence of BIN would be able to detect Indonesians who wanted to go to join radical groups in the Middle East. God knows best.