Monday,18 December, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1287, (17 - 23 March 2016)
Monday,18 December, 2017
Issue 1287, (17 - 23 March 2016)

Ahram Weekly

Kizilay bombing sparks anger

Criticism of the Erdogan regime is growing after Sunday’s terror attack in Ankara, writes Sayed Abdel-Meguid

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world
Al-Ahram Weekly

After 30 years of brutal conflict that claimed thousands of civilian lives, Turkey is still spinning in the same vicious circle. The two sides of the conflict refuse to budge.

One of those sides, only days ago, proclaimed that 2016 will be the year of the Kurdish Spring (alluding to the volcanoes of anger and frustration that erupted against corrupt and dictatorial governments elsewhere in the Middle East in 2011).

On the other side are the authorities, who have vowed to eliminate terrorism. In the middle stand the millions of ordinary Turkish and Kurdish people who are struggling to live peaceful and happy lives but who seem perpetually haunted by grief.

On Sunday, wails of anguish pierced the skies once again in the centre of the Turkish capital, whose inhabitants have barely had time to recover from the car bombing that took place on 17 February. That attack, too, claimed dozens of lives, mostly among army officers and soldiers, and many of the wounded are still being treated in hospitals. This week’s bombing seemed to confirm fears that a serial operation is at work and that more is yet to come.

Here in Ankara, we see the heartrending sight of the many families who rushed fearfully to emergency rooms, praying not to find one of their loved ones among the dead and wounded, only to suffer the additional shock of being asked to provide a DNA sample because the remains were unrecognisable.

To compound this horrific tragedy, the bombing occurred less than 48 hours after the US Embassy in Ankara had warned its citizens of a potential terrorist plot and urged them to avoid the Bahçelievler area in the vicinity of the tomb of Ataturk, the founder of the Turkish republic who is a symbolic target of the growing fundamentalist movements in Turkey. Bahçelievler is located in the Kizilay district, not far from where the bombing took place.

The target and timing must have been carefully chosen. It was just before 7pm, as commuters headed through Güvenpark, next to Kizilay Square in the centre of Ataturk Boulevard, on their way home. Many of the pedestrians might have had friends or acquaintances that preceded them to the bus stop, located in a side street of the park, where buses and other transport vehicles stop and people gather. Suddenly everything went up into a huge ball of flame. Dense pillars of smoke could be seen more than a kilometre away.

Where were the security agencies? What happened to that tightly integrated, intensive security plan that Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu had pledged to put into effect precisely in order to prevent a repetition of the 17 February tragedy, which took place near the national air force headquarters, and the attack before that at the Ankara Central Train Station on 11 October that killed 105 people?

Sunday’s bombing took place less than 100 metres away from the Belgian Embassy. About half a kilometre down the road is the Swiss Embassy, and across from that are other diplomatic missions. Also nearby are government buildings, major bank branches, a couple of commercial malls, and hundreds of shops, not to mention the old cabinet building, the headquarters of the army chiefs of staff and other military headquarters.

Moreover, in this case at least, intelligence agencies had received clear warning signals. They even had pictures of the potential suicide bombers receiving training in the camps in the Qandil Mountain area in northern Iraq. Among them was a woman, Seher Çağla Demir, who is strongly suspected to be one of the two perpetrators of Sunday’s attack.

In fact, well before this, authorities in Ankara were certainly aware of the interview that Cemil Bayik, one of the founders of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), gave to Le Monde in late December. His movement would use all available means, including armed struggle, in its fight against the government of the Justice and Development Party (AKP), he said.

He also said that his organisation might soon announce the formation of a “revolutionary resistance front” with other radical left-wing organisations at home and abroad that would “join our struggle and fight with us against the Erdogan regime” inside Turkey.

Surely this should have galvanised authorities into taking the many precautions needed to prevent criminal attacks that would claim the lives of innocent people. It therefore is little wonder that, after the third Ankara bombing, the Turkish government came under fierce criticism for laxness and for its failure to put into place and administer a proper security system to protect its citizens from recurrent catastrophes.

The opposition condemned the brutal attacks and called for the immediate resignation of the head of Turkish intelligence, Hakan Fidan, and Interior Minister Efkan Ala.

Turkish citizens are staring at horizons that are now gloomier than ever. Hopes that had been pinned on a revival of tourism have evaporated under travel warnings cautioning tourists to stay clear of Anatolia.

This and other repercussions will ripple through an already strained economy. After this how can normality resume in Kizilay, the heart of the commercial lives of the people of Ankara, especially given the apprehensions over the spectre of future attacks?

As for another important segment of Turkish society, Newroz, the most important festival in Kurdish culture, is just around the corner. This year, the annual spring festival, which coincides with the northern equinox, is to be celebrated beneath ongoing aerial bombardment of PKK camps in northern Iraq, ongoing curfews and vows of revenge and escalation.

If the centre of those events is in southeast Anatolia and just beyond, they will quickly be translated into protest marches against the two halves of government — the president and his prime minister.

In other words, the rest of March and beyond will bring grave developments in the war between the AKP government and the PKK, and the gulf will broaden and the chasm will deepen.

 

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