Is Terrorism the New Normal in Turkey?
Turkey is in a state of uncertainty. Terrorism and war in the country’s southeast are a real possibility.
Since June 2015, there have been four major terrorist attacks in Turkey. One in particular, in Ankara, was the worst in Turkish history.
On January 12, 2016, a bomb rocked Istanbul. At around 10:20am (GMT+2), in the heart of Sultanahmet, just yards from the iconic Blue Mosque, ten people were killed and 15 wounded when a suicide bomber detonated an explosive device. Six of the deceased were German tourists.
Questions were asked about the perpetrators. Was this the actions of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK)? Or was it the Kurdistan Freedom Falcons (TAK), a pro-Kurdish splinter group responsible for the recent mortar attack on Istanbul’s second airport in December? Was it the DHKP-C, a leftist revolutionary movement responsible for the January 2015 suicide bomb attack—also in Sultanahmet—that killed one police officer and injured another?
It is now known that a 1988-born Syrian was the suicide bomber. The gender of the assailant has not been made clear. Rumors abounded earlier that it was a female. According to unnamed government sources mentioned in the media, the Islamic State (IS), which was accountable for the worst terrorist attack of Turkish soil when two bombs killed 102 mostly young Kurdish peace activists in the center of Ankara in 2015, is implicated here.
Calm Before the Storm
Some might say these recent acts of terrorism spell a new era for Turkey. It is true that there has been relative calm since the peace process with the PKK that began in 2012, and since 2003 when there were no acts of terrorism in Turkey carried out by international groups.
The current period has been marked by the fourth term in office held by the Justice and Development Party (AKP). The June 2015 Diyarbakir and the July 2015 Suruc bombings occurred around the same time that Turkey’s general election resulted in a hung parliament. For various reasons, a coalition government could not be formed. It led to a period of tremendous instability and insecurity over the future of Turkey. The country seemed rudderless, the Turkish lira was collapsing, and international investment fell dramatically.
Turkey was the darling of the Middle East during the early 2010s, with the economy soaring, trade booming and investments rising … But now matters have never looked so uncertain for Turkey.
In October 2015, the Ankara bombings created further alarm over the state of Turkey, reducing confidence in the country and its leadership, both home and abroad. It has been argued by some that this bombing helped to cement the return of the AKP, who began to promise stability and security at a time when Turks were most troubled over the future of their country. The AKP were able to form a majority government in the November general election, and now President Recep Tayyip Erdogan seems to be on course to establish the executive powers he so enthusiastically seeks.
During this period, however, tensions between Turkey and the so-called Islamic State have grown to the extent that the once-fruitful relations between the two to help remove Syrian President Bashar al-Assad from power turned sour. In November, Russian President Vladimir Putin publicly accused Ankara of buying oil from IS, after a Russian jet was shot down by Turkey.
Turkey was the darling of the Middle East during the early 2010s, with the economy soaring, trade booming and investments rising. The country seemed to have managed the balance between capitalism, democracy and Islam. Turkey looked to the East and West at the same time with confidence, even as the fires began to burn in Syria and Greece was about to fall—both at the same time, both neighboring states.
But now matters have never looked so uncertain for Turkey. Terrorism and war in southeastern Turkey are quite possibly the new normal.
No clear answers will emerge as to where Turkey goes from here, how it responds to the challenges that are raised, and what the implications of its actions will be. But there will be many questions that continue to be asked today as the world looks on with horror, and over the days and weeks to come as Turkey looks for the foes.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Fair Observer’s editorial policy.