I am sitting here on my keyboard just hours away from the most recent terrorist attack in Turkey. Just outside a courthouse in Izmir, a car bomb went off killing two and injuring several more. That is what we know for sure at this point. There are two things that seem to be widely speculated. The first is that these attackers actually planned something larger but had to launch their attack early when discovery seemed immanent. The second is that this was an attack carried out by PKK freedom fighters, not ISIS.
Normally, I would take that second accusation with a grain of salt. The knee jerk reaction is always to blame PKK first and then start digging into facts later. That is just the way the government works around here. But when the dust is settled and what truth that can’t be covered up is revealed, it almost always pans out that any attack with a high list of victims carried out in civilian areas is ISIS but any attack with a smaller number of casualties targeting a police or government institution is PKK [or some offshoot]. ISIS’ stated goal is to spread Islam. PKK’s stated goal is to gain independence. So this time around, I think the government might actually be telling the truth. Hey, even a broken clock is right twice a day.
My heart breaks for Izmir and the victims of this second national tragedy to strike Turkey in a year that is not yet a week old. My heart also breaks for the countless victims caught in the crossfire of the multiple simultaneous conflicts that are ravaging my home of Southeast Turkey as well as Syria and northern Iraq. When will it end?
That question has been plaguing me a lot lately. Just to look at one small aspect of this regional mess, what would a positive outcome for Syria look like? Right now Bashar Assad looks to be closing in on winning this multi year long, multi sided war that has displaced more than ten million of his own citizens both internally and internationally. The odds of him completely winning out and his opponents actually putting their guns down is almost 0 but lets say it happens. Is that a good solution? There are very good reasons that so many of his own people rose up against him in the first place. Outside of some ultra right wing crackpots who believe the entire Arab Spring was planned and orchestrated by Obama and his cronies, most people realize that it was the outcome of social inequity, injustice, and an angry oppressed minority throughout the region finally saying enough is enough. Assad does not deserve the title of leader. He is a bully, a criminal, a murderer, an egotist. He does not deserve a seat in the global community of leaders no matter how much Russia and Iran want to prop him up. So even if he does regain full control, the people of Syria are no better off than when this all started.
Now lets say there are some major reversals and he does end up being driven from power. What then? Right now most of the various rebel factions have formed a coalition recognizing it is necessary for their survival. How long will this coalition last after he is gone? You can measure that length of time in seconds. Some of these groups are fairly moderate but others are just as bad as ISIS. They are far worse than some of the Muslim groups that have taken advantage of the Arab Spring to rise to power in other parts of the world. (I’m looking at you, Muslim ‘brotherhood’) As difficult as it is to imagine, some of these groups in control could be far, far worse than the current regime.
So let us bend belief a little further and say the moderates do end up rising from the ashes and gain control. Let us stretch credulity and imagine that good people actually want to establish a good government out of the ashes. How many decades will that take? How many of the rising generation have already become part of the scarred victimized fertile field from which terrorists find such easy recruitment? How quickly will the international eye look elsewhere, deny their culpability in this, and leave that new government to its own devices with no money, no infrastructure, and no way to build a stable society?
This is just one facet of the many problems tearing apart this area. What of the refugees? How many will return? Who will pay for that? Where where those whose homes have been completely be destroyed live in the interim? How will they all be fed? What to do with the many who have no desire to go back? How much hurt and bitterness remains between once friendly neighbors who have taken up opposite sides in this conflict? What about the tens of thousands who have been injured beyond the ability to care for themselves and live productive normal lives? What do you do with all those citizen soldiers who committed war crimes on the threat of their own death?
Every day my first prayer is for a just peace for this region. What does that even look like? I can’t imagine what that will look like. Now I am not one to simplistically blame Islam for the troubles in this region. The issues are far more social, and economic, and political and even if you remove all culpability of that religion in this situation, you cannot deny that Islam is powerless to help bring a solution. A religion based on vengeance and retribution has nothing to offer Syria. What they need is someone who will teach people to turn the other cheek. What they need is someone who will bring forgiveness and reconciliation. The only hope for Syria is Jesus.