Monday,20 August, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1315, (13 -19 October 2016)
Monday,20 August, 2018
Issue 1315, (13 -19 October 2016)

Ahram Weekly

Continuing bloodshed in Turkey

Hardly a week goes by without a bomb attack in Turkey, the latest being the bombing last Sunday in the southeast of the country, writes Sayed Abdel-Meguid

Al-Ahram Weekly

The bloodshed in Turkey continues unabated, the most recent incident occurring on 9 October on what has rightfully been called “Bloody Sunday.”

On this day a car bomb not only claimed the lives of Turkish soldiers and police, but also of innocent civilians including women and children. Once again, the scene of the attack was south-eastern Anatolia, an area that has not now known peace and tranquillity for more than three decades.

The prospect of an end to the conflict in Turkey also now seems more out of reach than ever, entrenched as both sides are behind their chauvinistic and ultranationalist versus ultra-leftist barricades. 

In response to the spate of car bomb attacks, the Turkish authorities have imposed a comprehensive media ban, as though the country’s media was not already under their thumbs. The official justification is “in order not to impede the security measures necessary to conduct investigations” and “so the perpetrators do not escape.”

There are also unstated motives, however. The authorities do not want to feed the public with further images of bloodied corpses, scattered body parts and grieving relatives, since a good portion of public dismay is already directed at the powers-that-be in Ankara.

Hardly a week now goes by without a bomb attack that does not differentiate between an army barracks or police facility and a street crowded with pedestrians. Such incidents are constantly sparking the type of questions that have haunted the authorities in Ankara for more than a year now.

As was the case in the aftermath of the 10 October 2015 bombing outside the Ankara central train station that claimed over a hundred lives, among them pro-peace activists, the questions reflect widespread suspicions of official negligence.

 Where were the intelligence agencies? How could a vehicle containing tons of explosives reach its target, particularly under the present fraught circumstances? Surely extra precautions should have been in place, given the many previous attacks against similar facilities?

Two other factors lie behind the news blackout. One is the 23rd World Energy Congress that convened in Istanbul the day after Bloody Sunday. Ankara does not want any ugly images to overshadow the Congress, especially as Russian President Vladimir Putin is scheduled to speak.

The occasion is extremely important to Turkey at a time when the country’s media is stoking up public anger against the US, an “ally in words, but not in deeds” as the pro-government paper Yeni Safak has put it, on the pretext that Washington is refusing to hand over Islamist preacher Fethullah Gulen whom Ankara accuses of masterminding the 15 July coup attempt in Turkey.

The second factor is that last Sunday had been designated for the inauguration of a Turkish mega-project in the shape of a three-storey tunnel connecting the European and Asian shores of the Bosporus.

As Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was to be there in person to cut the ribbon on this grand occasion, it would not have done to have reminded people of the tragedies of war and terrorism that have been rocking the country.

Following Sunday’s attack, Ankara pointed the finger of suspicion at the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), though on this occasion observers believe that the car bomb attack, which occurred in the Semdimli district of the Hakkari Province, was blowback from the Euphrates Shield Operation in Syria.

Tomorrow marks the 50th day of the Turkish military incursion into northern Syria, occasioning greater than ever fanfare to celebrate the successes of the Turkish army in eliminating the Daesh presence in the border area.

But one expert from the Turkish Foundation for Political, Economic and Social Research (SETA) has cast these successes in a different light. While the Euphrates Shield Operation was successful in restoring life to the city of Jerablus after freeing it from the grip of Daesh and enabling its inhabitants to return, those that cleansed the city were in fact from the People’s Protection Units (YPG) that Ankara brands as a terrorist organisation.

What the foregoing tells us is that Turkey’s military expedition in Syria will not end in the near future, not because of prospects of gaining new ground in northern Syria, but because it has so far failed to achieve its ends.

This means further Turkish embroilment in the quagmire of the civil war in Syria, which Erdogan himself has said is about to be “wiped off the map”.

Lending weight to predictions that Erdogan and his government will not succeed in attaining their wishes in Syria is the fact that the European and American media are growing increasingly convinced by the claims of the Kurds in Turkey and other observers that what is really happening in Syria is a war of genocide against the Syrian Kurds.

In the midst of the turmoil and confusion in this Shia-Sunni-Kurdish triangle, the projected liberation of the northern Iraqi city of Mosul is also occasioning a new spike in tensions between Turkey and Iraq.

Politicians in Turkey are adding fuel to the fire by inflaming Turkish public opinion with the claim that the presence of Turkish forces in the Bashiqa Camp in Iraq is bothering “certain parties.” These want to exclude Turkey from the Mosul equation, the politicians say, but after the failed coup attempt in Turkey the latter will not stand by as they attempt to reshape the region against it.

One report by the semi-official Turkish news network NTV said that negotiations were still ongoing in Baghdad in the run-up to the liberation of Mosul. The anchor asked who would control Mosul after its liberation, and the controversy is homing in on Tal Afar, a focal point of Turkish anxieties fed in part by fears that it could become a staging post for pro-Syrian regime forces.

The Turkmen inhabitants of this area are 60 per cent Sunni and 40 per cent Shia, but the Iraqi Popular Mobilisation Forces, which are supported by Iran, are determined to have the final say on the future of the city, possibly paving the way to the expulsion of the Shia Turkmen and putting an end to Turkish influence.

But Turkey not only faces the objections of Baghdad in its actions in northern Iraq. Washington, too, does not want Turkey involved in the approaching campaign to liberate Mosul, and this in turn will affect Turkey’s presence in northern Syria.

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