World in View: Terror and old prejudice in a changing Turkey

December 10, 2015

From the November-December 2015 issue of News & Letters

Over 100 people were killed and hundreds injured in the double suicide bombing of a peace rally in Ankara on Oct. 10. The rally called for an end to hostilities between the government and the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). Participants had included union members, students, and members of the pro-Kurdish, Leftist Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP).

Critics pointed to the incredible lapse in security that allowed this atrocity to happen in the center of the capital, and in the wake of a July 20 suicide attack in Suruc, which killed 33 and injured 104, and a June 5 attack in Diyarbakir that killed 4 and injured 100. All were targeted political foes of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP).

Blaming the victims, Erdogan has tried to conjure up a demonic underworld of “otherness” in which the PKK and the Islamic State allegedly work together with shadowy foreign intelligence agencies to undermine Turkish society. This is meant to incite anti-Kurdish prejudice as the path to regaining the parliamentary majority his AKP lost in the June elections. New elections are scheduled for Nov. 1.

While these recent attacks have likely been carried out by ISIS, Erdogan’s government has also caused heavy casualties, including among civilians, through its renewed attacks on the PKK.

The rise of the HDP came in the wake of the 2013 Gezi Park protests and the heroic struggle to defend Kobane in Syria against ISIS. These profoundly democratic events changed the political scene in Turkey. Erdogan saw them as a threat to the twin pillars of his ideology, narrow religion and free market capitalism.


The cynicism with which he and Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu equate the PKK with its deadly enemy, ISIS, parallels that of Assad in Syria equating revolutionaries to ISIS. HDP leader Selahattin Demirtas responded passionately to their lies: “You haven’t made one arrest in relation to any attacks. Neither the Suruc nor the Diyarbakir bombing. You won’t arrest the perpetrator of the Ankara bombing either. If Turkey is disturbed by our cries for democracy and peace, I’m sorry, but we do these rallies so we can live together, peacefully.

“You are the real provocateurs here. Every speech you make smells of provocation. Both President and Prime Minister. Every speech you make causes our people to hate one another. Because we didn’t vote for you it is alright to kill us.”

Erdogan’s retrogressive rule is an invitation to further terror and social disintegration.

—Gerry Emmett

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