Monday,23 October, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1288, (24 - 30 March 2016)
Monday,23 October, 2017
Issue 1288, (24 - 30 March 2016)

Ahram Weekly

Istanbul bombing

Mixed fortunes characterised developments in Turkey this week, with Ahmet Davutoglu claiming as historic a deal struck with Europe in the context of the refugee crisis, contrasted with Saturday’s bombing in Istanbul that put again in question the capacity of the government to safeguard the country, writes Sayed Abdel-Meguid

Al-Ahram Weekly

Another cloud may cast its shadow the progress in the resumption of Turkish-Israeli relations, which Ankara appears the keener of the two on thawing, in order to revive bilateral relations to the level of warmth six years ago. This cloud loomed with the suicide bombing that took place last Saturday in the heart of Istanbul, killing three Israelis (two of whom also had US nationality) and an Iranian, and wounding 39 others, mostly foreigners. Among the wounded were another 11 Israelis, seven in critical condition (a UAE citizen is also among the wounded).

As in the three Ankara bombings that occurred in the past four months, government officials and the media pointed a finger of blame for Saturday’s attack instantly at the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). A claim of responsibility issued by the Kurdistan Freedom Hawks (TAK) seemed to corroborate the accusation, as officialdom in Ankara make no distinction between this splinter group and the PKK, with which it parted ways over a decade ago. The following day, Sunday, the perpetrator was officially identified as an Islamic State group member, based on DNA samples.

This triggered a wave of speculation and questioning across Turkish social media sites. If the suicide bomber was, as the government claimed, a PKK member on a mission of vengeance against the Justice and Development Party (AKP), which has unleashed a fierce war against Kurdish populations in southeast Anatolia, he chose his target with deliberate care. Striking the famous Istiklal Avenue, a crowded pedestrian street in the central Beyoglu commercial district and linked to a major transportation hub, would deliver a horrifying blow and be guaranteed to reap a high civilian toll. Yet, the timing raises an important question. The perpetrator chose a Saturday, the beginning of the weekend, and a time when the normally busy pedestrian artery was relatively quiet. Stores do open Saturdays, but it was still early (before 11:00 am) and not many shoppers were out yet. But tourists were.

As most of the dead and two-thirds of the wounded were Israeli, conjecture was rife. It helped the ruling AKP little that one of its members, İrem Aktaş, propaganda chief of the party’s women’s branch in Eyüp district in Istanbul, tweeted that she wished that the wounded Israelis who were then receiving emergency treatment had also died. Disciplinary action was taken against her immediately and she was fired from the party. After all, an Israeli medical plane was due to arrive that evening to transport the victims home, where Aktaş’s remarks had triggered outrage.

The AKP is under enormous strains these days because of the constant pressures on it by President Erdogan to get a new constitution ready for a public referendum. He does not want unwanted tensions to crop up and stall his dreamed of plans for a presidential system. Therefore, before the Israeli Foreign Ministry General-Director Dore Gold arrived in Turkey, Erdogan took pains to stress that the remarks by that AKP member were her own opinion and did not reflect the views of ruling party which does not discriminate on the basis ethnicity or faith. Curiously, there was a media blackout on this move ordered by Erdogan himself?

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