A divided country can’t cope with these threats
The security situation in Turkey is getting progressively worse. Yesterday we marked the first anniversary of the worse terrorist atrocity in Turkey since the founding of the republic.
A suicide bomber attached to the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) killed over 100 peace demonstrators in Ankara and injured over 500 in the attack.
Last year saw two other such attacks in the capital, perpetrated this time by suicide bombers from a splinter group attached to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). There were similar attacks around the country by ISIL and the PKK. These attacks continued well into 2016.
This year also saw a bloody coup attempt by sympathizers of Fethullah Gülen embedded in the Turkish armed forces, who killed over 250 people. We also saw for the first time our parliament being bombed from the air by jets flown by Gülenist pilots.
Not long after the coup attempt was foiled, ISIL attacked a wedding in Gaziantep in August, killing 54 and injuring dozens more. This resulted in Turkey moving its armed forces into Syria against ISIL, and also against Syrian Kurdish groups with links to the PKK.
Over the weekend we saw the PKK attack a military checkpoint in Hakkari, killing 10 soldiers and five civilians. Around the same time, reports were coming in about an ISIL attack against the Turkish-controlled military camp in Bashiqa near Mosul in Iraq.
This came at a time when Baghdad is demanding Turkish military forces in Iraq withdraw, a development that is causing yet another security headache for Turkey.
These developments show that Turkey is trying to ward off threats to its security from multiple sources. In situations like this, it is natural that the average citizen should look to the government for reassurance.
If you ask members of the government, they argue that things are under control and terrorism is being rolled back on all fronts. But, as Turks say, you would need a thousand witnesses to corroborate this. The bottom line is that ordinary people are deeply concerned about where all of this is leading to.
A sensible government that is faced with multiple threats to the country, the way Turkey is today, would put aside ideological considerations in order to reassure the public that its main priority is to provide security for all.
What we have instead is leadership and a party that is still trying to promote its own agenda in the middle of a storm, and doing little to reduce social divisions – much of which it stoked itself – along ethnic, sectarian and ideological lines.
The fight against the Gülenist movement – or the “FETÖ terrorist organization” as the government has dubbed it – is being used a dragnet against all those considered enemies of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) and fueling more divisions and resentments.
While the fight against the PKK must go on relentlessly, there is no effort to reach out to Turkey’s citizens of Kurdish origin in order to help heal wounds that have been reopened during this past year. Instead, ethnic enmity is being allowed to increase in a dangerous way.
As if all of this was not enough, our already precarious democracy and the human and social rights that are part and parcel of a true democracy are being allowed to deteriorate by the day in the name of fighting threats to the country.
The biggest threat to the country, though, is the divisions and enmities between different elements of society that are being allowed to grow. A nation that is united can stand up to anything, even multiple threats from different quarters. A divided country, however, cannot stand up to a threat from even a single quarter.
It looks like we will have to suffer much more until the government understands this and acts accordingly.