Terror in Ankara, iron hand on Turkey
The suicide bombing of last Sunday not only killed 35 innocent souls in the middle of Turkey’s capital. It also highlighted the depth of the crisis that Turkey has been drawn into in the past three years – a crisis that is getting worse and worse, thanks to the vicious cycle between similarly zealous political actors.
The worst of these political actors is, of course, the PKK, the terrorist group unpretentiously called “the Kurdistan Workers’ Party.” Never mind that the organization that claimed the attack was TAK, the so-called “Kurdistan Freedom Hawks.” Everybody in Turkey knows that TAK is merely a side branch of the PKK, often doing the dirtier work of attacks on civilian targets. Also never mind that TAK claimed that their real target was the police officers in the middle of Ankara’s busiest square. At the very least, they must have calculated that many civilians would also die, but they didn’t give a damn.
This horrific incident, along with the previous TAK car bomb in Ankara in February which killed close to 30 people, shows that Ankara’s worries about “the Kurds” are not unfounded. I used the term in quotation marks, for that is how both the PKK and its Syrian affiliate, the PYD, have been referred to recently in the Western media. Zillions of articles criticized Ankara for worrying about these “Kurds,” who are secular and “progressive,” rather than the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), against whom these “Kurds” are bravely fighting.
However, as these massacres in the middle of Turkey sadly prove, if they go terrorist, “secular Kurds,” like anybody else, can be a threat as lethal as ISIL. ISIL suicide bombers blow themselves up to go to heaven from earth, whereas PKK suicide bombers blow themselves up to establish heaven on earth – a much-idealized “independent Kurdistan.”
This is the trouble with terrorism. On the other side the coin, however, we have another problem: A regime which is going after terrorism only in counter-productive ways, and also using it as a pretext for taking its authoritarianism to new heights.
This was all too evident in the way President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan framed the issue just a day after the Ankara bombing. He spoke in the capital, and declared that everybody, both home and abroad, will be “either on our side, or the on terrorists’ side.” He also ruled: “There is no difference between a terrorist with a gun and bomb in his hand and those who use their work and pen to support terror.”
This practically means that anybody who opposes or even criticizes the government’s anti-terrorism measures, even without any sympathy for the terrorists, will be counted as a terrorist. No wonder three academics who signed a petition in January which condemned the government’s anti-terrorism policy were put in prison this week – right after Erdoğan’s introduction of the notion of “unarmed terrorists.”
The sad thing is that we have seen this film before: the vicious cycle between radical and violent opposition forces and an arrogant and authoritarian state. It is actually a film that Turkey keeps seeing over and over, almost every decade, only with actors changing places.
Someday, I hope, we will realize that there are no “evil forces” in our nation, as almost everybody seems to believe, but rather a certain degree of evil in all of us. Only that day, I am afraid, will we Turks (and Kurds) be able to find some peace of mind.