Turkey's outburst at the BBC says more about the way we use 'terrorist'

Published August 23rd, 2015 - 03:32 GMT
The term gets more complicated the deeper into MENA conflicts you go. (AFP/File)
The term gets more complicated the deeper into MENA conflicts you go. (AFP/File)

The Turkish government this week condemned an article written by the BBC for what Ankara claimed amounted to 'supported terrorism,' because of the way it described the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). 

The paragraph in question? The BBC writes: 

"The PKK is considered a terrorist organization by the Turkish authorities and several Western states, but it is now a key player in the battle against the jihadist group Islamic State."

The international community has so far been pretty quiet about Turkey’s bombing campaign against their Kurdish foes in northern Iraq. 

They’ve acknowledged Ankara’s designation of the group as a terrorist organization, despite the fact that several Kurdish groups, including the PKK, have not only been key players but key US allies in the fight again Daesh. So the BBC was really only stating the obvious here. 

But this scuffle is also a good reminder of a big question — in mosaic of MENA conflicts and the groups they involve, who are the terrorists? 

The question is so broad that news agencies generally steer clear of the term entirely. Maybe it’s easier to break down when we’re talking about Daesh (ISIS), but what about the PKK? Or the Shiite Lebanese group Hezbollah? At least a few countries would call them terrorists, but plenty more would call them ‘resistance groups.’ Meanwhile, the Syrian government has taken to calling all its enemies terrorists since the beginning. 

If anything, Turkey’s outrage should only remind us that, especially on Syria’s multi-faceted battlefield, one person’s terrorist is another person’s ‘freedom fighter.’







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