Turkey is reeling on account of multiple problems it faces within and from the borders. The twin blasts that exploded in the Turkish capital of Ankara on October 10 has only complicated the matters further and weakened Turkey’s image as a big power.
Prime Minister of Turkey Ahmet Davutoglu declared three days of national mourning following Saturday’s bomb attacks in Ankara that killed nearly 100 people. The government reported that 160 people wounded in twin blasts were still hospitalized, with 65 of them in intensive care at 19 hospitals.
Thousands of people took to the streets of Ankara on October 12, many of them chanting slogans against the Turkish government, as the country mourned the victims of twin bombings at a peace rally. Thousands more marched in the mainly Kurdish southeastern city Diyarbakir.
The blasts occurred near the main exit of the railway station in the Ulus district. The French news agency, reporting from the attack site, said the grounds were littered with ball bearings, virtually guaranteeing the blasts would cause maximum casualties. No one has claimed responsibility, but analysts say the bombings bear similarities to two suicide bombings in July near the Syrian border that killed 33 people. Islamic State extremists later took credit for those attacks.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan condemned the blasts — the worst such violence in Turkish history — as a “heinous attack on our unity and our country’s peace.” He also canceled three days of appointments as his nation grieved, but by late Sunday he had not yet addressed the public.
Critics, including Selahattin Demirtas, the co-chairman of Turkey’s pro-Kurdish party, blamed the government for the explosions, accusing security forces of failing to protect the peace rally. In an address to mourners, he said “the state which gets information about the bird that flies and every flap of its wing was not able to prevent a massacre in the heart of Ankara.” The Hurriyet Daily News headline called the attack “A bomb into our hearts.” It added, “The deeply outraged public is waiting to find out who is behind the incident.”
Davutoğlu called on his nation to unite and act against terrorism, saying there are indications two suicide bombers carried out the blasts. But the prime minister’s appeal for calm and unity fell on deaf ears. Lawmakers from the ruling AKP political party took to social media sites Sunday to claim the bombing was the conspiratorial handiwork of Kurdish separatists aimed at making the government look bad. Others accused the pro-Kurdish HDP party of bombing their own supporters in an effort to boost its electoral appeal ahead of elections set for November 1.
None of the accusers have produced any fact-based evidence for their claims – not a standard requirement in Turkish politics, which thrives on conspiracy theories. But, analysts said the failure of the government to get to the bottom of a string of bombings in southern Turkey the past three years hasn’t helped to stop speculation about who might be behind the terrorism.
The Turkish government used the July border bombings at Suruç to justify launching airstrikes against Kurdish militant positions in northern Iraq and Syria, arguing it needed to combat all terrorist groups, Kurdish and Islamic. The airstrikes ended a four-year-long peace process between the PKK and Ankara.
The PKK announced after the bombings that it is ordering its fighters to curb militant activities in Turkey and only respond when they come under attack from Turkish forces. But Turkey said its warplanes struck Kurdish targets in northern Iraq and southeastern Turkey on Saturday and Sunday, killing 30 or more Kurdish fighters.
Coming just weeks away from next month’s parliamentary elections, Saturday’s bombings will likely add to a sense of foreboding across a country fearful of more spillover from the war raging in neighboring Syria and the clashes in southeast Turkey between Turkish forces and PKK militants.
By the pre-dawn hours Sunday, after the dead and injured had been carried away, the investigation continued into who carried out the massacre and why. “Those who try to mute people’s will have launched a war and what happened in Ankara was another front line,” said Levent Altun, a prostester in Istanbul. “People were saying no to war and persisting in their calls for peace and they tried to silence them with bombs. So we are here, shouting them back, telling them people will not be deterred by their bombs.”
US President Barack Obama offered Turkey official US condolences. Hours after the attacks, a White House statement said Obama also conveyed “his deepest personal sympathies,” and sought to extend assurances that “Americans stand in solidarity with the people of Turkey in the fight against terrorism.”
Across Europe, leaders condemned the attacks, and NATO is pledging to stand united in the fight against terrorism. The growing instability in Turkey is another headache for the alliance.
Turkey is a NATO member, and last week the alliance pledged to support the country in the face of incursions by Russian warplanes into its air space. “We are in constant dialogue and assessing the situation with Turkey, but the main thing is we have the ability to reinforce, they have a strong army and we have a rock solid commitment to protect and defend them,” said NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg.
After the attacks, Russian President Vladimir Putin offered condolences, solidarity, and help. Any involvement by Russia in Turkey could, as its war in Syria, further complicate matters for the NATO and the West, which depend on Turkey’s strategic position in the Middle East for everything from the use of its air bases to its hosting of millions of refugees — most of them from the conflicts in neighboring Syria and Iraq.
Though no one has claimed responsibility for the bombings in Ankara, they are a sign of the turbulence the country is facing at a crucial time in the region.
With contentious parliamentary elections three weeks away, the attacks highlight the challenges Turkey is facing as it struggles with ethnic friction, an ongoing migrant crisis, and growing tensions with Russia. To avoid fueling even more tension, Turkey’s government imposed a media blackout banning these images of the moment the two bombs exploded at a rally in which Kurds and progressives for called for equality and peace.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and PM Davutoglu need to revise their policies and strategies that promote their Islamist ideals and stop steps that are harmful for Turkey, and create problems for the nation and people. Russia’s violation of Turkish space is not a positive signal. Before launching the air strikes in Syria, Russian President Putin had promised Israeli PM Netanyahu that Russia would care for Israeli security. Israel is annoyed with Turkey, a former military ally, for its pro-Palestine stance in recent times, as the Israeli military fired at a Turkish aidship bound for Gaza strip with medicines, food stuff, to free the region from Israeli terror blockades.