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Turkey Takes its War Against the Kurds Into Europe

Czech police officers arrested a Syrian citizen named Salih Muslim last weekend at his hotel in Prague after the Turkish government issued an Interpol “red notice” describing him as a terrorist and asking for his extradition.

Muslim isn’t a terrorist. He’s a spokesperson for the Movement for a Democratic Society, a secular left-wing Kurdish organization aligned with the United States and Europe that stands foursquare against every terrorist army in Syria, especially ISIS.

He used to be one of the co-presidents of the Democratic Union Party (PYD), the political organization behind the People’s Protection Units (YPG) which has done more heavy lifting against ISIS in Syria—and suffered far more battlefield losses—than any other fighting force in the world. Yet Turkey’s increasingly paranoid and deranged President Recep Tayyip Erdogan insists that everyone involved with them even peripherally is a terrorist, making the morally bankrupt old adage that “one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter” actually true in this case.

The PYD and the YPG are emphatically not terrorist organizations, and Erdogan is no more an authority on the subject of who is and who isn’t a good guy than talk radio conspiracy jock Alex Jones, who went on a tear in January about Brian Stelter, host of CNN’s Reliable Sources, for being a “devil worshipper” who “drinks children’s blood.” Since the botched coup attempt in 2016, Erdogan has purged more than 150,000 people—including novelists, journalists and professors—for supposed membership in the Turkish “deep state,” that shadowy group of military, intelligence and judiciary officials who have frightened children and would-be dictators since at least the mid-1990s. Erdogan’s regime even arrested a NASA scientist. The evidence against him? He has a bank account at an institution allegedly “linked” to dissident cleric Fethullah Gulen and had a one-dollar bill in his pocket, which is supposedly how Gulen’s followers identify themselves to each other.

At the same time he’s been rolling up the Gulenists and the deep staters he’s been mounting a breathtakingly draconian campaign against supposed Kurdish terrorists and their supporters, so far jailing and indicting thousands of civilians—including a Wall Street Journal reporter—on nonsense charges. Hasip Kaplan, once a member of parliament, is facing a 142-year prison term, and the court won’t even let him attend his own trial. As of the end of 2017, the state has arrested more than 11,000 members of his avowedly secular People’s Democratic Party (HDP).  

The Czech Republic went ahead and complied with Erdogan’s “red notice” request by arresting spokesperson Salih Muslim, but a judge ordered him released from custody when he learned what the fuss was about. Turkish officials are vowing to “hunt the Kurdish leader wherever he goes” and are offering a four million lira reward (the equivalent of roughly one million American dollars) to anyone with information that leads to his capture.  

“This decision clearly means to support terror groups,” Turkey’s Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdag said about Prague letting his prey go. It means no such thing whatsoever. The Czech Republic simply refuses to send an innocent Syrian into a third country’s dungeon.   

The decision also, Bozdag added, “will negatively impact relations between Turkey and the Czech Republic.” No doubt Turkey’s attempt to rope Europe into its witch hunt will also negatively impact relations.

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