Does Turkey have to learn to live with terror?
It was very upsetting and distressing to observe the mourning of family members and loved ones of the victims of the latest Ankara car bomb attack on March 13 - the third deadly terrorist act targeting Turkey’s capital in five months.
The first took place in front of the central train station in Ankara in October last year, marking the deadliest ever terror attack in Turkish history as it killed 103 civilians.
Although the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) did not claim responsibility for the attack, prosecutors investigating the incident found links between the two suicide bombers and the jihadist organization.
The second and third attacks were little different from the first one. Car bombs were used in both attacks and they exploded in the capital’s most crowded areas. The second attack killed 29 people, including many military personnel, while the third killed 35 civilians.
The Kurdistan Freedom Falcons (TAK), a splinter group from the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) claimed responsibility for the Feb. 17 attack. Although Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu and other government officials said the latest attack was perpetrated by the PKK, no group had claimed responsibility by the late afternoon of March 15 when the Hürriyet Daily News went to print.
There was also a separate terror attack in Istanbul in early January, blamed on another ISIL-linked suicide bomber who killed 12 German citizens. The list would be even longer and more fatal if previous terror attacks that took place in the period after the June 7, 2015 election are added.
All this underlines how Turkey has become vulnerable in the face of rising terrorism.
On the other side of the medallion is the ongoing, massive anti-PKK campaign being jointly conducted by the army and police forces in some southeastern provinces. Attempts to clear districts like Sur, Silopi, Cizre, Yüksekova and Nusaybin of PKK elements have turned into bloody urban warfare, pushing locals to leave their houses. The clashes are getting heavier and there are concerns that tension could escalate even further ahead of next week’s Nevruz festival.
In fact, the level of violence and tension in Turkey’s southeast has been escalating at a time when tension has shown signs of easing in Syria, after the announcement of what the international community calls a “cessation of hostilities.”
Although there have been minor violations of the truce in Syria, almost all parties have expressed satisfaction with its implementation. Russia’s decision to partially withdraw some of its troops and warplanes has also been regarded as encouraging, as the U.N.-led negotiations are set to resume in Geneva. It has taken five years and nearly half a million dead people for Syria to be able to see the prospect of a violence-free future, although conditions are still very fragile.
Now, looking at the current picture in Turkey it’s hard for anybody to not be concerned about the future. The rise in terrorism has caused a deep trauma and spread fear in society, which will have lasting effects on the country’s social order.
The responsibility to overcome this tragedy sits on the shoulders of politicians from all walks of life, with the government at the top. Its primary duty should be to reject perceptions and comments suggesting that the Turkish people should learn to live with terror.