“Some criticize us for going too far or standing back more than any other country with respect to the crisis in Syria. We are tending to this crisis through its natural course. We are neither dragging anyone nor being dragged by anyone,” he said in an effort to underline the fact that this crisis is not a bilateral matter between Turkey and Syria.
Why Mr. Davutoğlu felt the need to make this assertion is obvious as both Western and Eastern sources have been waging incredible propaganda campaigns against Turkey. Unfortunately, these negative propaganda efforts are having an impact on the public opinion in neighboring and Western countries. In this context, it can be argued that Turkish public diplomacy efforts are considerably insufficient and the government is seriously failing in its public relations efforts to explain the country’s foreign policy decisions to the public. Despite the fact that months of labor, studies and making contacts are needed to make foreign policy decisions, any change of attitude in the country’s foreign policy is perceived as a sharp turn or a serious shift as only the announcement and impact of such a change are visible to the public. The government and the Foreign Ministry are having great difficulties explaining these changes, which are perceived by the public as abrupt shifts or sharp U-turns.
As a result, not only friendly or hostile foreign public opinion, but also Turkish public opinion is influenced by the strong negative propaganda efforts from the West and the East that consider everything, including lies, distortion of facts and fabricated news stories, as acceptable. In particular, some pro-Israel Western groups recently succeeded in portraying Turkey as shifting the axis of its foreign policy toward an anti-Western position and seeking neo-Ottoman imperialist aims in its foreign policy, particularly in the country’s foreign policy decisions concerning Syria and Iran. We can hardly say this unjust and antiquated image of Turkey has been completely wiped out.
As the effects of this image of Turkey as an anti-Western country are still visible, part of the Turkish public opinion and that of the people in neighboring countries has paradoxically and interestingly come under the influence of a new form of negative propaganda originating from Iran and Syria. Turkey, which some Western groups tend to portray as an anti-Western country, is now being accused of collaborating with Western and US imperialism, particularly with respect to the Syrian issue.
Actually, this offers Turkey a good opportunity to see to what extent the anti-democratic regimes in Syria and Iran have influenced Turkish society by taking advantage of their erstwhile good relations with Turkey. To exemplify this, I want to note that the number of Iranian companies that started their operations in 2011 is 590. This indicates a 40 percent increase in the number of Iranian companies in Turkey. Thus, even the slightest criticism against the Assad regime, which killed thousands of innocent civilians, or against Iran, which lends full support to the Syrian regime, is prone to draw very strong reactions from some ferocious pro-Iranian groups whose number is on the rise due to Iran’s efforts to boost its clout in Turkish society. Iran’s influential advocates in Turkey tend to turn a blind eye to Tehran’s complicity in the crimes of the bloodthirsty Assad regime, but wage all sorts of defamation and attrition campaigns against the Turkish government and civil society circles that raise their voices against these massacres.
Today in Turkey there are dozens of propaganda websites and numerous Iranian news agencies that offer stories in Turkish and these pro-Iranian and pro-Syrian networks have access to and can influence the Turkish public. These websites and news agencies propagandize that true Muslims should support the bloodthirsty Assad regime instead of siding with the innocent Syrian people. And people who, witnessing the tyranny of the Assad regime, support the Syrian people are written off as collaborators or subcontractors of the imperialism of the CIA or Mossad agents. Oddly enough, this foolish propaganda can be successful to a certain extent.
Although no objection is raised or allowed to be raised against the smear campaigns against Turkey in Iran or Syria, the pro-Iranian groups fully enjoy the benefits of democratic rights and freedom of thought and the press in Turkey and wage an incredibly dark propaganda campaign against the Turkish government and public. Even these ferocious pro-Iranian groups are given lots of space in the mainstream media networks and these Syrian or pro-Iranian figures pose as journalists/columnists and dedicate all of their time and energy to defame Turkey in the columns of mainstream papers or the TV programs they appear on or host on the mainstream TV networks.
Ironically, some groups who had recently called on the military to overthrow the democratically elected Justice and Development Party (AK Party), claiming that the ruling party would make the country more like Iran, as well as the neo-nationalists (ulusalcı), Kemalists and even the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) are lending full support to these pro-Iranian and pro-Syrian groups. While they pursue an uninterrupted and disgraceful propaganda against Turkey, these pro-Iranian and pro-Assad groups have carefully avoided voicing a single criticism against the ongoing civilian massacre in Syria.
Despite the fact that Iran’s closest allies are communist/atheist China, North Korea, Cuba and undemocratic Latin American regimes, these groups market it as the leader and protector of the Islamic Ummah. Also, they consider the national-socialist (Baathist) Assad regime that is based on a sectarian/religious minority as part of the Islamic Ummah while completely ignoring the Syrian Muslims who are being slaughtered en masse. They present those who advocate for the rights of the Muslim Syrian people as enemies of Islam.
I would like to make an open and challenging call to these groups who are voluntarily or professionally serving Iran and Assad: You can freely wage your propaganda of insulting the good people of Turkey, who always side with oppressed people irrespective of their religion, language or color. What I want you to do is try devoting only one-tenth of the criticism you hurl against the Turkish government and people to the regimes, leaders or social groups of Iran and Syria, just as a pretense. If you are not killed or imprisoned -- which we never wish -- by them, then come back to Turkey and continue to disseminate your propaganda at the magnitude and ruthlessness you are capable of. So, what do you think about my proposal, Mr. Hüsnü Mahalli and cronies?