Headlines in pro-government Turkish media Friday praised the Islamic State while criticizing the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), which, with the help of US-led air strikes, consolidated their hold over the 400-kilometer region next to Turkey’s border earlier this week.
The Sabah Daily, for example, ran the headline “YPG Is More Dangerous than ISIS.” The paper is known as a staunch supporter of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his Justice and Development Party (AK Party).
Sabah claimed that according to military personnel in Ankara, ISIS could be wiped out within two to three years, whereas the formation of a Kurdish block in the region could have much longer lasting effects. The pro-government daily also suggested that the real target of the Kurdish militants is actually Turkey.
Likewise, news reports attacking the YPG and suggesting that ISIS was better and more humane than the Kurdish fighters could be found in other dailies supportive of the Erdogan government, including the Star, the Yeni Akit, and the Akşam.
According to reports, as prime minister Erdoğan invested in the media as a means of influencing public opinion in favor of his administration. A group of businessmen allegedly pooled funds to purchase a media group following Erdoğan’s instructions in return for privileged treatment in public tenders. The media corporations purchased by the group came to be known as “pool media.”
Friday’s pro-ISIS news was the latest in a series of indications of Turkey’s support for the Islamic State.
In April, Hassan Sakr, head of external relations for the Syrian Social Nationalist Party (SSNP), accused Turkey of supplying logistical support to ISIS. “There are some countries in the area,” said Sakr, “who continue to help and provide support to terrorists, such as Turkey, which is helping ISIS outposts logistically and regarding security.” Sakr also said that “in Turkey, there are also training camps for jihadists where militants receive ISIS training.”
Two weeks ago, the Turkish opposition newspaper Cumhuriyet published a damning report against the Erdoğan government’s collusion with ISIS, complete with pictures and videos of weapons destined for armed Islamic groups in Syria in trucks escorted by members of the Turkish secret service MIT.
Erdogan responded by threatening the paper’s editor, Can Dundar, warning him that he would pay a “heavy price” for the revelations, which the president called a “violation of state secrets.”
The Turkish government has since requested a sentence of life imprisonment for Dundar.
Follow Thomas D. Williams on Twitter @tdwilliamsrome