Thursday,23 May, 2019
Current issue | Issue 1266, (15 - 21 October 2015)
Thursday,23 May, 2019
Issue 1266, (15 - 21 October 2015)

Ahram Weekly

Ankara bomb sets lines

Turkish public reaction to the devastating bombings in Ankara last weekend was swift and determined: Get Erdogan out of power, writes Sayed Abdel-Meguid

Al-Ahram Weekly

Early last Saturday morning, shortly before a peace rally to protest war and terrorism, hundreds of opposition activists began to gather at an assembly point near Ankara’s historic main train station. The sun was shining; the mood was festive.

Young men and women formed a semicircle, clasped hands and began to perform a traditional folk dance to the tune of a song praising love and harmony. It was said that the song was originally Kurdish, but the people dancing were both Kurds and Turks.

Suddenly, the ground shook as two bombs detonated within moments of each other, causing a staggering number of dead and wounded. It was a massacre unprecedented in the history of the Turkish republic founded by Kemal Ataturk nearly a century ago.

Soon waves of grief began to sweep the country, lamenting the almost 100 lives that have been lost, most in the prime of their youth. It was a grief mixed with anger at the thought of how many more lives will be sacrificed in the mounting climate of tension and hatred generated by those who seek to exclude not to include, who bear messages of war not peace, who aim to repress and silence all who differ with them.

Some eyewitnesses who miraculously escaped unharmed but who saw death first-hand, shouted, “They’re trying to intimidate us. They’re spreading fear and panic. This is a massacre!” Their cries went unanswered. From abroad came voices condemning the cowardly acts aimed directly at human and civil rights, and at democracy.

The Ankara bombing immediately brought to mind two similar bloody attacks whose perpetrators and the people behind them remain unknown. The first occurred in the distant village of Suruç in Sanliurfa province, near the border with Syria. A suicide bomb attack on 20 July killed 32 young men and women.

The second occurred several weeks before in the main square in Diyarbakir during a campaign rally organised by the pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (PDP). Two people died from the two bombs that went off.

Both of the attacks targeted peaceful rallies. Most of the participants at the gatherings were Kurds. Otherwise put, the Kurds were the main target of five bombs in three successive incidents in the space of less than four months.

Authorities moved quickly to contain the fallout from the Ankara attack. News of a deliberate blackout spread like wildfire. Twitter and Facebook were shut down immediately following the bombings. Many people complained that they could not connect to the Internet at all.

Meanwhile, media allied with the ruling Justice and Development Party (JDP) desperately searched for ways to keep the public from blaming the government for the deaths. Such are the workings of fate; no one can escape his destiny, went one line. Terrorism knows no country or religion; it is to be found everywhere in the world, such as in neighbouring Iraq and Syria where booby-trapped cars and suicide bombers claim dozens of innocent lives per day, went another.

Naturally, these dailies that swear absolute loyalty to the ruling party and its founder Recep Tayyip Erdogan claim a monopoly on the truth. To them, all voices of dissent are merely conspirators who harbour evil for the pious Turkey that is returning to its glorious Ottoman past.

In such a press, of course, there is no room for the dozens of urgent questions that arose in the wake of the Ankara massacre. Like the rallies in Suruç and Diyarbakir, the schedule of the Ankara rally and its assembly points was known well enough in advance for police to take some precautions.

According to some reports, none were visible, but if any measures were in place they were certainly insufficient, especially given the two previous attacks. Moreover, not only did the last attack take place in the heart of the Turkish capital, the rally was to assemble quite near to the General Security Directorate (only 650 metres away).

Only a short way further on is the General Intelligence Agency, and beyond that the controversial presidential palace that Erdogan had built for himself. One would have expected such a strategic area to resemble a fortified barracks.

As different as the Soma mine tragedy was, many could not help thinking about it on this occasion. The investigations into that incident, in which 301 coal miners died following an explosion in a mine, concluded with all suspects cleared of charges of negligence.

Did not the then-prime minister, now president, himself say that mining accidents happen everywhere in the world? Are cynics not without cause to believe that investigations into the tragedy in the capital will lead to a similar conclusion ¾

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