Trail of Jihad: From Peshawar to Hatay (Turkey)

Eurasia News

From Peshawar to Hatay (Turkey)

Agha Iqrar Haroon

Winter of 1980: 

Charters flights landing at Peshawar airport full of youth from Arab world ready to enter Afghanistan to fight with infidel Russians 

Winter of 2014:

International flights landing at Hatay airport of Turkey full of youth from United Kingdom, Central Asia, United States ready to enter Syria to fight with infidel Syrian regime 

International media in last quarter of year 2013 started reporting that Hatay airport of Turkey is air travel passage of western Jihadis to enter to Al-Qaeeda controlled Jarablus inside Syria. There were a series of reports in media that Turkey has become a safe passage for Taliban and other Jihadi elements to enter Syria to fight against Shia regime that is considered as Infidel regime by Salafi Muslims. Turkey has been denying the allegations that it is providing battle ground for resources to international terrorists like al-Qaeda and Taliban and several smaller groups from Central Asia. CNN did a strong report how extremists were travelling from all over the world to Turkey and then entering to Syria with loads of weapons. Turkish prime minister has been denying and called such reports as campaign against his moderate Islamist government. Now reports are coming from central Asia how youth is boarding flights to Turkey and then disappearing into Syria. Most of central Asia states have free visa regime to Turkey. Turkish denies such reports. 

“But the reality is that it is nearly here already. We stood at the Turkish border and filmed a chilling sight: the flag of ISIS, flying calmly over a minaret a few hundred meters away in the Syrian town of Jarablus – a sign that they control the town. Turkey now has to reconcile the seemingly relaxed traffic of Jihadis into their south to travel into Syria — many of whose aim is to help establish an al Qaeda-friendly caliphate — with the fact they can now see al Qaeda from their border. It couldn’t get any closer” reports CNN in November.

Turkey is a moderate Muslim country at the juncture of Asia and Europe. Half of Turkey falls in Europe thereby it has become a hub of tourism during the last two decades. It is leading in aqua tourism, cruise tourism and ecotourism. There was time Pakistan was a hub of tourism connecting Europe to South Asia before radicalism took over the country during the last 3 decades.

There was time when Peshawar was the most popular destination among European tourists. Peshawar borders Afghanistan as Hatay borders Syria. Peshawar became hub of Islamist Jihadis route during Afghan-Russo war as Hatay has become hub and popular route for Jihadis to enter Syria to fight against Shiet government of Syria. Jihadis who were using Peshawar to enter Afghanistan 34 years back were going to fight against infidels in Afghanistan as Jihadis now are entering Syria from Hatay. There were majority of foreign Jihadis to enter Afghanistan from Peshawar as majority of foreign Jihadis from Europe, Central Asia and Pakistan are entering Syria from Hatay. Jihadies who were going from Peshawar to Afghanistan were supported and funded by western powers as Jihadies from Hatay reaching to Syria. Pakistan thought that it was just supporting Islam to host these jihadis and they would go back to their countries once the Jihad will over. But it never happened indeed.

Afghan-Russo war ended but Jihadism continued to flourish in Peshawar and then spread all over Pakistan, resulting the total change of Pakistani society from a tolerant moderate society to a radical and intolerant society. Now Turkey is thinking that it is supporting Syrian radical groups to install an Islamic state in Syria but it does not think how this game of jihadism may change its own society latter or sooner. Syria war will end–may be in years or may be in decades but this Jihadi route will have exceptional impact on Turkish society for decades to come.