By Günay Hilal Aygün
September 22, 2014
Forty-six Turkish citizens and three Iraqis who were held captive by the terrorist Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) for over three months were finally set free on Saturday. The 49 hostages were abducted by ISIL on June 11 after the group raided the Turkish consulate in the Iraqi city of Mosul. The people of Turkey were thrilled with the news on Saturday morning, as recent reports of ISIL beheading its hostages heightened concerns regarding the condition of the Turkish captives. While President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan praised the National Intelligence Organization (MİT) for the "successful operation," Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu said that the release was a result of a series of contacts. ISIL even stated that it had "safely handed over our Turkish guests" on one of its social media profiles.
Bugün daily columnist Gültekin Avcı wrote a Monday piece titled “There is no operation.” After expressing his satisfaction with the return of the Turkish hostages and the fact that their captivity is finally over, Avcı asked, “What about the other side of the coin?” According to Avcı, we should question what exactly is behind the release of the hostages. Pointing out that a rescue operation -- which is how Erdoğan labelled the event -- is pretty different than what Prime Minister Davutoğlu described as a result of "contacts,” Avcı explained that an operation is a unilateral activity of espionage, conducted without the consent or notification of the target group, state or individual in order to fulfil a goal against them. An operation might be carried out with the use of weapons or not, Avcı added, however, using contacts and negotiations are far different. Contacts and negotiations are conducted with notification and consent of the other party, as seems to be the case with the ISIL hostage situation, Avcı said. “On the other hand, an operation is based on intelligence, strategy and use of force. There are no compromises or promises to convince the other party to do something,” Avcı continued. “So, who is lying?”
He said that sources close to ISIL declared on social media that the hostages were released because Turkey did not join the US-led coalition against the extremist group. A media report said that Doğan Yıldız, a police officer who was among the released hostages, told his parents that ISIL planned to release them in a week, shortly before they were set free, Avcı wrote. Citing another media report, Avcı quoted Mosul Consul-General Öztürk Yılmaz as saying, “We didn't know we were going to be released even while on the road to the border.” The columnist noted that such reports indicate that there was no operation, but a hand-over after a negotiation with ISIL.
In another Monday column, Milliyet daily's Mehmet Tezkan wrote that Turkey must have given something to ISIL in return for the release of the hostages. “In fact, I am not going to ask how they were saved, but I am going to ask how they were allowed to be taken hostage in the first place,” Tezkan said. The columnist questioned who gave the order for the Mosul consulate not to be evacuated when MİT had warned against ISIL's advance in the city, and even though the governor had left Mosul. “Who gave the instruction not to evacuate the building, jeopardizing the lives of 49 people? Was it Ankara, the foreign minister or the consul-general?” Tezkan asked.