Arif Komis and MH17: Has Dr Mahathir no heart?

Nathaniel Tan, The Star

ARIF Komis is a Turkish chemistry teacher, working at an international school here in Kuala Lumpur, where he lived with his wife and four daughters.

A widely circulated photo showed the six of them looking like a happy family, the oldest daughter taking a smiling family selfie, while the youngest was still small enough to be carried by her doting father.

The Malaysian government recently decided that Komis, as a ‘terrorist’ wanted by Turkey, deserved to be extradited, and deported him back to Turkey.

It was alleged that Komis had ties with an organisation that media outlets like Bernama called Feto.

Feto is an abbreviation for Fethullahist Terrorist Organisation. It was no surprise to find that this term was invented by the Turkish government led by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to describe supporters of Turkish preacher Fethullah Gulen.

It was also no surprise that none of said supporters identify as being members of an “organisation” with the word “terrorist” in it.

A rather strange cross-section of Malaysian politicians seems to look at Erdogan as some sort of god – a titan among global leaders.

These include Malaysians you might otherwise consider at least somewhat progressive and supportive of concepts like human rights and justice.

Supporting such values while also lauding Erdogan seems nothing short of blatant hypocrisy.

Erdogan is one of very many politicians who may have started off somewhat decently, only to eventually slide into the same brutal authoritarianism they may have originally meant to replace.

It is no wonder the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees classified Komis as an asylum seeker and person of concern, because of what he would face in Turkey.

Amnesty International has documented shocking reports of barbarous torture in Turkey under Erdogan, especially after the coup attempt in 2016:

“… detainees in Turkey are being subjected to beatings and torture, including rape…. Police held detainees in stress positions, denied them food, water and medical treatment. Detainees were verbally abused, threatened as well as subjected to beatings and torture, including rape and sexual assault.”

Erdogan’s penchant for thuggery even manifests itself overseas in Washington DC, where his bodyguards beat up protestors in broad daylight right in front of the Turkish embassy.

This is the Turkey that Malaysia has sent Komis, his wife, and his four daughters back to.

When Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohammad was questioned about this, he replied:

“I don’t know about torture in Turkey. Are we going to accuse Turkey of torture? Do you have proof?”

Mr Prime Minister, there is proof aplenty. The simplest Google search will produce more credible evidence than you could read in a week.

But no amount of proof will make any difference to a heartless man or government that has shut their eyes and ears to the truth.

I may go so far as to even agree that if you sent Dr Zakir Naik to India, he may not get a fair trial. But if you say that a public figure like Dr Zakir Naik will be treated worse in India than Arif Komis in Turkey, I believe available evidence would very much suggest the contrary.

Regarding Erdogan, there are some parallels here to Dr Mahathir’s “love” for the late Robert Mugabe.

Where Mugabe gained early fame for his anti-colonial stances, Erdogan once stood as a glowing example of modern Muslim strength.

We should never ever, however, let strong beginnings blind us to when men who may have once been great begin their descent into authoritarianism, brutality, and thuggery – the path taken by both Mugabe and Erdogan.

Dr Mahathir probably has grandchildren or great-grandchildren about the same age as the four Komis girls. If one of them were suspected of treason by Erdogan’s government, do you think Dr Mahathir would be so flippant and ignorant about what goes on in the dark torture basements in Ankara?

His recent comments in Russia about MH17 were no less shocking. The Star reports:

Malaysia has doubts over some of the findings of the Dutch-led Joint Investigation Team (JIT) on the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17, says Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

In an interview with the Sputnik news agency, which is based in Moscow, Russia, the Prime Minister said that some of the findings of the JIT do not seem “quite right”.

“I am not doubting their truthfulness. But there are certain things they claim – it is difficult for us to accept…. Identifying the missile – yes. The area where it happened – that can be verified.

“But identifying the actual firing, by whom [it was performed], that would be very difficult in the usual circumstances, ” he said.

We can only imagine Russian President Vladimir Putin grinning from ear to ear, having successfully manipulated yet another foreign leader into doing exactly what is best for Russia.

Not ungrateful, Putin “generously” threw the prospect of an aerospace university our way, like a bone for a well-behaved dog.

From the Wikipedia entry on MH 17:

“The responsibility for investigation was delegated to the Dutch Safety Board (DSB) and the Dutch-led joint investigation team (JIT), who concluded that the airliner was downed by a Buk surface-to-air missile launched from pro-Russian separatist-controlled territory in Ukraine. According to the JIT, the Buk that was used originated from the 53rd Anti-Aircraft Missile Brigade of the Russian Federation, and had been transported from Russia on the day of the crash, fired from a field in a rebel-controlled area, and the launcher returned to Russia after it was used to shoot down MH17.

“On the basis of the JIT’s conclusions, the governments of the Netherlands and Australia hold Russia responsible for the deployment of the Buk installation and are taking steps to hold Russia formally accountable.”

So the Dutch and the Australians are fighting for justice, but we, the owners of the plane, are happy to give Putin – himself now cracking down as we speak on protestors seeking greater democratic space in authoritarian Russia – a free pass and headlines that will make him smell like roses?

Dr Mahathir’s only slight saving grace was when he had the “decency” to add a caveat to his comments on MH17: “But I do not have any relatives that were killed there.”

And what if he did? Would his view and position as to what happened have been different?

Is he at liberty to make such comments effectively absolving Russia of blame because he was not related to the victims?

Are the victims and their relatives not also our Malaysian brothers and sisters? Do they not deserve a Prime Minister who cares more about lost lives and justice than about some aerospace university?

What are we trying to achieve? Selling out our quest for truth and justice so that we can build more airplanes to be shot down by Russian missiles?

I don’t believe in being completely impractical when it comes to politics. If we don’t have the wherewithal to impose moral standards on nations like Russia, Turkey, or China, and have to continue to find some way to live together, then fair enough.

But I think that at the very least those in power do have a moral obligation – not just as political leaders, but as human beings answerable to a higher power in the afterlife – not to be complicit in abetting murderers and absolving them of blame, or in sending people to near certain torture.