The spread of terror and states of emergency
The cancellation of the football match between the Netherlands and Germany in Hannover on Nov. 17 was something rare, if not unique. It perhaps marked the first time that not only a city, but an entire nation - and actually the whole of Europe - was terrorized without an actual act of terrorism taking place.
The German authorities’ move to bring life to a halt until they were sure that the imminent threat was over was probably the right thing to do, once they had reasonable evidence showing the possibility of a terrorist attack following the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant’s (ISIL) Paris strike on Nov. 13, killing 129 people.
ISIL has activated the oldest and the worst weapon of all time: Fear.
On the morning after the abandoned match, Nov. 18, the French security forces cornered two suspected ISIL militants in a northern suburb of Paris. After a clash lasting seven hours, one of the militants reportedly blew himself up along with the other. The picture is familiar: On Nov. 15 a suspected ISIL militant (who was on the Turkish police’s wanted list in relation to the Ankara bombing of Oct. 10, in which 102 people were killed) also blew himself up after he understood that there was no way to escape.
French President François Hollande has asked parliament to declare a three-month state of emergency. In yesterday’s clash with ISIL militants, the government called on military units to help the police, and French military carried out a police operation in a heavily-populated Parisian suburb. The French government has also reportedly asked Twitter and Facebook to block pictures of the ISIL attacks, worried that they could further escalate fear in society.
Such measures are a matter of criticism in Turkey when applied by Ankara. But it seems that under growing threats the advanced democracies of the EU will not hesitate to call on the military in urban areas, (as we in Turkey have seen recently in Silvan and are currently seeing in Nusaybin), or restrict communications. (At times of war, freedoms are generally ignored by governments, but there are also lessons that the media should draw, such as over the use of graphic images that only serve the purpose of those trying to spread fear.)
It is not only Turkey, France, and Germany that are affected by the recent wave of terror by ISIL. Russia is now also in the picture. After Russia’s intelligence service, the Federal Security Service (FSB), announced that a bomb had brought down the Russian passenger plane into the Sinai desert on Nov. 4, killing 224 people, Russian planes in Syria escalated their attacks on ISIL targets in Raqqa.
Since July, the ISIL toll in five attacks outside of Syria and Iraq (as far as we know) is 532. Thirty-four people in Suruç, Turkey, on July 23; 102 people in Ankara on Oct. 10; 224 people in Sinai on Nov. 4; 43 people in Beirut on Nov. 12; and 129 people in Paris on Nov. 13. It is clear that ISIL now stretches beyond Syria and Iraq, probably largely down to the “foreign fighters” who have spent time in the Syrian civil war and returned to the countries of their passports.
Unfortunately, it will not be a surprise if ISIL hits another city in any country of the world, killing civilians.
The immediate consequence of current and possible future attacks would probably be further protective measures from governments, perhaps exaggerating these measures to be on the safe side. That would put civilians under more pressure as a price for their enhanced security.
A realistic, sustainable joint international strategy against ISIL is increasingly urgent. That must be considered with a realistic, sustainable strategy regarding the future of Syria. Every day that passes without such a strategy could lead to the further spreading of ISIL terror and states of emergencies - whether officially declared or not.