Reina attack spotlights Turkey’s need to combat hatred

Reina attack spotlights Turkey’s need to combat hatred

It is dreadful to have one’s worst predictions for the incoming year confirmed so quickly and in such an inhumane manner. However, one does not need the ability to predict the future to understand why this is happening to us; nothing comes from a void.

Islamist vilification of New Year’s celebrations involving singing, dancing and drinking - in other words all the things that normal civilized people around the world do on this occasion - had fouled the already tense atmosphere in Turkey. A small group of ultra-nationalist Islamists dressed in traditional garb in the city of Aydın had even staged a protest by holding a gun to the head of one of them dressed as Santa Claus, striking a general pose reminiscent of Mafia executions

In Turkey, Santa Claus is associated with New Year, which for ultra-conservatives is a despised Christian holiday celebrated by secular Turks who they claim deny their own traditions.

Although the group was small, the shocking protest in Aydın got nationwide coverage, which is no doubt what they were hoping. There is also no doubt that many across the country enjoyed this ugly display.  

We also have the example of a soccer referee from the city of Kütahya who gloated in a tweet after the Reina massacre that “Santa does not always come bearing gifts.” He was clearly referring mockingly to initial reports that the killer in Reina had come dressed as Santa Claus. That claim was later denied by Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım and the Turkish Football Federation (TFF) has initiated proceedings against the referee. 

None of this means that these despicable displays of hatred and intolerance from Turkey’s ultraconservative Islamic quarters are the cause of the attack on Reina. The massacre clearly has more to do with Turkey’s military intervention in Syria against the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).

Nevertheless, these displays of hatred reflect where we stand today with regard to the loss of normality in Turkey, and how some people feel emboldened by what is transpiring in this country. 

The singer Frank Sinatra once famously told an auditorium packed with young white students, when the Civil Rights protests in the U.S. were at their peak, that “no kid is by nature intolerant. Intolerance is one of the few forms of ignorance that has to be cultivated.” 

There can be no better example of a country where this remark is truer than today’s Turkey. 

The irony is that this is also a country were Islamists complain day and night about Islamophobia and intolerance against Muslims in Europe. They are quick to point to the double standards of others but are totally blind to their own shortcomings in this regard.

It is also questionable whether the government – which ultimately is Islamist - is doing enough to combat such intolerance and hatred that dangerously increases social tensions and divisions in the country. 

Many are also asking in this context - rightly or wrongly - whether the lapse in security measures at Reina, even though it was obvious that the club would be packed with hundreds of people, is somehow related to the government’s barely veiled dislike of secular lifestyles. 

Turkey is a country today that is at war with itself. In order for it to show genuine national solidarity in the face of such attacks, there must be a government that is imbued with a truly democratic spirit. 

Only such a government can reach out to all segments of society without discrimination and unify the nation in order to defeat the true enemies of the people.

As pointed out in this column before, a country as divided as Turkey cannot hope to confront the kinds of problems it is increasingly faced by. It can only continue its spiral downwards.