Turkish communism: Alive and killing

Turkish communism: Alive and killing

When breaking news told about a suicide bomb attack against the U.S. Embassy in Ankara last Friday, many had the usual suspects in mind: al-Qaeda or similar militant Islamist groups. However, it soon turned out that the man who killed himself to kill other souls was not an Islamist at all. Rather, he was a member of the DHKP-C, or the Revolutionary People’s Liberation Army-Front, one of Turkey’s infamous communist terror cells.

This fact was first revealed by the Turkish police, who identified the bomber, 39-year-old Ecevit Şanlı, from security cameras. The man had a history of violent communism: He was arrested in 1997 for another terrorist attack that he and his comrades launched against a military club in Istanbul. He was later released in 2001 due to an illness called Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome, which was caused by the malnutrition he suffered during the hunger strikes that left-wing groups in Turkish prisons had initiated the year before.

Şanlı’s comrades at the DHKP-C claimed the attack the next day. In a message posted on the internet, they praised Şanlı as their “Sacrifice Warrior,” and explained that the attack was carried out to get revenge on “America, the murderer of the world’s peoples.” It was the usual “anti-imperialist” rhetoric of the Turkish left.

But one particular detail was new and interesting: a clearly pro-Baathist stance on Syria: “The Syrian people decide how Syria will be governed and by whom,” read the DHKP-C statement, apparently assuming that the Syrian people are represented by their mass-murderers (i.e. Bashar al-Assad and his fellow thugs). It also added: “Syrian collaborationist looters are trained and armed on our land and are sent back to massacre the Syrian people. The Syrian people are brothers of Turkish people. We don’t want our land to be used for the interests of imperialists.”

The “Syrian collaborationist looters” were none other than the Free Syrian Army (FSA). And the DHKP-C was apparently mad at the fact that the Turkish government was supporting it – an anger shared by most leftists in Turkey.

All this might have come as a surprise to Western readers, who might think that violent communism is long passé in the world. But in Turkey, Marxist-Leninism is still a powerful idea with dedicated followers, some of whom are violent. The DHKP-C is the most dangerous element in this strain, but it is not the only one. Any Turkey observer should keep that in mind.

It would also be helpful to note that the ongoing threat of communist terror in Turkey has something to do with one of the most controversial themes in current Turkish politics: Journalists in jail. I, too, am critical of this reality, and believe that there are many journalists who are in jail simply because of their ideas. But, as I have also noted before, the matter is not black-and-white, and some cases are understandable. Seven names among the “journalist in jail,” for example, write for small ideological outlets that proudly promote the DHKP-C ideology, and are being accused for being members of the organization.

At the end of the day, this tragic attack on the American Embassy (which, ironically, only killed a Turk and wounded another one), shows that terrorism really is not an imaginary threat in Turkey. It comes not only from Kurdish separatists or militant Islamists, but also those who still believe in that totalitarian madness called communism.