Our Life and Times by Kevin A. Barry
Suicide bombings devastate Istanbul
In November, Istanbul was the site of four horrendous suicide bombings in the course of five days. On Nov. 15, two near-simultaneous car bombs exploded outside two Istanbul synagogues filled with people. One blast tore apart the facade of the Neve Shalom synagogue, which is the center of Turkey's 25,000-member Jewish community. The other blast destroyed the Beth Israel synagogue three miles away, which is located in a neighborhood inhabited by Muslims, Christians, Greeks and Armenians as well as Jews. Twenty-five people (14 Muslims) were killed, and over 300 were wounded.
Five days later, two truck bombs exploded outside the British Consulate and the headquarters of the British HSBC Bank in one of the city's busiest pedestrian districts. The blasts were timed within five minutes of each other.
One driver blew up his truck in front of the HSBC Bank during heavy traffic. The other drove into the British Consulate's gate. Chunks of debris and glass rained over a 10 square block area. Thirty-two people, including the British consul Roger Short, were killed. More than 500 were wounded. Most victims were pedestrians.
The "Great Eastern Islamic Raiders Front" and the Turkish Hezbollah claimed responsibility for all four explosions. The "Great Eastern Islamic Raiders Front" has claimed responsibility in the past for Molotov-cocktail attacks on churches and bars. Its leader currently is in prison for previous murders. The Turkish Hezbollah which claims to be Sunni (different from the Lebanese and Iranian Hezbollah which have Shi'ite origins) has had a history of murdering and persecuting Kurdish fighters for self determination. Clearly both organizations are native to Turkey and may have ties to Al Qaeda and other Islamic fundamentalist groups.
The Turkish government, which is led by the Islamic "Peace and Justice Development Party," has claimed that it will do its best to stop this wave of suicide bombings. However, in September it had released 130 members of the Turkish Hezbollah from prison. Prime Minister Erdogan himself was jailed in 1998 on charges of inciting religious violence.
The Nov. 20 explosions were timed to coincide with the press conference held by George Bush and Tony Blair during Bush's state visit to London. While the purpose of that press conference was to claim that the "war on terrorism" has been successful, the suicide bombings in Istanbul once again show that this campaign has actually strengthened Islamic fundamentalists internationally.
Islamic fundamentalists have used the war on Iraq to intensify their anti-human, misogynist and anti-Semitic attacks. In the four explosions in Istanbul, more Muslims were killed and wounded than any others. This was also the pattern in an earlier suicide attack in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia in which a residential compound inhabited by families of Arab executives from different parts of the Arab world was destroyed. The victims were targeted for engaging in a "repulsive lifestyle" which included men and women socially mixing, sharing a swimming pool and drinking alcohol.
Published by News and Letters Committees