Turkey’s ‘acute terror’ continues to hit fragile social order
Turkish police and other security forces had taken extensive security measures against a potential terror attack on the New Year’s Eve, particularly in Istanbul and Ankara, frequent targets of both jihadist and separatist terror organizations.
There was sufficient intelligence that the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) would attempt to hit Turkey on that night. Yet this bloody attack in one of Istanbul’s most popular night clubs could not be prevented and caused the death of 39 people, including 27 foreigners.
This latest attack shows grimly that the terrorist campaign Turkey has long been exposed to has already turned into an “acute” problem with no easy solution. It’s also very sad to hear from top governmental officials that this campaign is unfortunately likely to continue in the coming period, despite reinforced security measures.
Officials tend to cite two different processes that are provoking more terrorist acts in the country. The first one is the continued military offensive into northern Syria, whose current target is the ISIL stronghold of al-Bab.
Turkish and Russian air forces continue to pound ISIL positions in the north and south of the city, while Turkish land forces and Free Syrian Army elements are fighting ISIL on the outskirts of the town. The operation to capture al-Bab is likely to continue for several months. Having been under strong pressure in al-Bab and in northern Syria, ISIL will continue to try to hurt Turkey through such inhumane attacks.
The second process cited by officials is Turkey’s attempt to change the constitution in order to shift to an executive presidential system that would grant even more power to President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
The latter is particularly important, as it could further fuel already existing political and social tension in Turkish society and could thus provoke further terrorist acts aiming to deepen this division and create more instability. Both the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and ISIL may try to touch sensitive points of Turkish society, which already suffers from growing intolerance over different lifestyles, religious, ethnic and ideological differences.
Indeed, the ISIL-claimed attack in Istanbul over the weekend shows again just how fragile the social and political order in Turkey is. Polarization in society is so deep that the killing of those who were celebrating New Year received praise from some radical sources, although the government has strongly urged that criminal investigations will be opened into those who have praised the offence and the offender.
Terrorists will be seeking to further destabilize the social order in Turkey through attacks on sensitive targets that would create particular outrage and strain certain divisions. That is why it is high time for all political parties, politicians and civil society to try to defuse social tension through rightful messages and common sense. It has been proven that rhetoric alone is not sufficient to bring about unity and solidarity if it is not accompanied by concrete political and social moves.
We have reached the point where Turkey’s social order – already been weakened after consecutive terror acts - is sounding strong alarm warnings. The government should be aware that it will become much more difficult to keep that order intact, even if it can still largely control the public’s perception of events.