ISIL to become head-hunting company in Turkey
Two weeks before New Year’s Eve and Christmas, contrary to most shopping malls in Istanbul, there were long cashier lines in IKEA stores. As I happened to gaze at people’s shopping carts - and yes, people do look at each other’s carts - I was surprised to observe that a large number of families were buying Christmas trees and boxes of ornaments. Even considerably pious and conservative families were influenced by their kids and their joyous efforts to celebrate the coming new year.
Despite all the anti-New Year propaganda, Cevahir Biz, a very new shopping mall in Istanbul, inaugurated by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, was full of New Year’s decorations. The company even sent PR bulletins to showcase the Santa Claus courtyard that they had created for children. The Cevahirs are a great family who staunchly support the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) and President Erdoğan himself. They knew that what they had created for kids was not a crime against Islam.
Anti-Christmas and anti-New Year’s propaganda have been brewing on the streets of Istanbul for at least five years. But the methods were strikingly different. There was a small religious group called “Tebliğci” for example. These young men, dressed in caftans and turbans, used to walk on Istiklal Avenue distributing pamphlets peacefully and telling people not to drink and not to celebrate. A year after, we saw them stopping by cafes and bars in Nişantaşı. They were defending their cases peacefully. Sadly, they disappeared, and mobsters from social media took over.
The attack on Reina obviously was planned to send shockwaves across all layers of the society and to the Middle East. For more than a couple of years, Reina had become the hip hangout place for young Arabs. Upscale Turks had moved away from the club after a couple of brawls and gunfights. But for our guests from the Middle East and North Africa, it was the equivalent of going to NOBU in New York. The killer is a trained fighter for the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and he probably had visited the place before. He, not only entered without resisting, but he even dared to leave his weapon at the scene before leaving. We still have not heard anything about that rifle.
Intelligence analysts underline the fact that attacks like these take place when there is an obvious crack in the society. “The water moves in and flows inside that crack. If you cannot cement that crack or close the gap, eventually the water that flows in, destroys the building,” said one very experienced intelligence officer.
ISIL, as Tolga Tanış wrote in his article on daily Hurriyet on Jan. 2, carries out attacks in places it finds breeding ground and a follower base. Turkey is not just ISIL’s “Dar-ul Harb,” meaning the gate of war in Arabic, but it is also a fertile territory to recruit more young men to be fighters. If Ankara fails to take necessary measures to educate, employ and empower Turkey’s unemployed youth, ISIL will end up being their headhunting company.
Dr. Selçuk Şirin from New York University tweeted his Pakistani friends’ concerns a couple of hours after the attack. “Taliban ruined us. India went to space, we are locked in the Middle Age” his friends had said. Şirin’s words should ring alarm bells in Ankara. Let the bells jingle, so that we do not become like Pakistan in 10 years’ time.