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Ankara Blues: Yet More Bombings

Reflections on the cheapness of life in Turkey.

October 13, 2015

Reflections on the cheapness of life in Turkey.

More than 100 people have lost their lives in a peace rally in Ankara in the most deadly bomb attack in modern Turkish history.

The gruesome images show bombs exploding while young men and women were dancing hand-in-hand and singing together.

The bombing happened just when members of the pro-Kurdish party, HDP, were about to unite with other protesters in a peace rally that was initiated by HDP, labor unions and, notably, various associations of professionals.

This is the third time a pro-peace rally has been targeted since last June, including the Diyarbakir bombing in June that killed four, and the Suruc bombing in July that killed 34 people.

There is no doubt that the current government’s and President Erdogan’s inflammatory rhetoric, direct attacks and smear campaign against the opposition, including the HDP, contributed to this tragedy.

These bombs take on a special significance in view of the Erdogan-staged repeat elections to be held on November 1.

This context explains why, even after the bombing, Prime Minister Davutoglu was still busy attacking the co-leader of HDP, even calling for prosecutors to arrest him on charges of instigating an uprising against the state.

Why not leave people in peace in Turkey?

It appears that President Erdogan and his proxy Ahmet Davutoglu are ready to risk everything just to maintain their grip over the politics of Turkey.

Just a few days ago, I witnessed firsthand the police attack on protesters in Izmir. The streets were still full of riot police in full gear even at 1:00 am. The same is true in Ankara and Istanbul.

It is very revealing that the very first reaction of the AKP government after the bombs detonated was to put a ban on press coverage and send riot police against those mourning for their loss.

Indeed, while young people were fighting for their lives on the streets of Ankara, the police were busy shooting tear gas at the dead and wounded on the street.

Meanwhile, the now famous son of Mr. Erdogan, Bilal, who was the star of an ultimately suppressed corruption probe and leaked tape recordings a few years ago, is busy adjusting to his new life in Bologna, Italy.

He moved there with his family supposedly to finish his PhD — on a full scholarship, of course, (even though he clearly does not need any financial support).

No longer of the people, but above them

This elegant escapist act of the President’s son explains why Selahattin Demirtas, the co-chair of HDP, said in his press statement on Saturday that “it is always us who are dying – the soldier, the police, the Kurds, the Turks, it is us. The poor people of this country are dying.”

And then, referring to the AKP political elite, he continued: “You are not dying. We know what your kids are doing. It is us who are dying, not you.”

Adding insult to injury, in a press conference, the Minister of Justice Kenan Ipek — when asked if he considered resigning — responded with a big smile.

No surprise either that the Minister of Interior said there was no security breach – and therefore no need for any resignations. One wonders how he could possibly know that without any careful investigation.

Turkey is just a few weeks away from the early elections on November 1. This was after President Erdogan refused to issue a mandate to the opposition to try forming a government after his AK Party had chosen not to form a coalition government with other parties.

Many analysts argued that the escalation of war with the Kurdish guerilla group PKK that restarted after the June general election and the subsequent suicide bombings, are integral parts of a broader attempt by the AKP government to have the HDP pushed out of parliament.

This would allow the AKP to capture the HDP votes and form a majority government in the future parliament, which would then enable it to change the constitution without the support of the opposition and move the country to a presidential system, without any checks or balances, just like Mr. Erdogan has wished for on several occasions.

More bombs? No surprise

Unfortunately, those of us who have been watching Turkish politics over the years had premonitions about an increase in violence in the run-up to the election.

It fits into this pattern of increasing lawlessness that, just two days ago, a convicted mafia leader organized a rally in support of Mr. Erdogan (who, according to the Turkish constitution, should actually be independent and not act as the head of a political party).

The mafia leader threatened the opposition, saying “blood will flow like a river.”

As if that were a future-oriented statement, since June several Kurdish cities have been put under curfew and the total number of dead — civilians, security forces and guerillas — has reached over 600, pushing the country towards a full-blown civil war.

The future looks quite grim indeed. One positive effect of this could be that the various opposition forces, usually gloriously disunited, may finally understand that they need to unite if they want a real change and challenge the AKP government.

Viewed in that light, it is actually quite encouraging that the labor union DISK, the public sector workers union KESK, as well as the Union of Chambers of Engineers and Architects, TMMOB, and the Union of Turkish Doctors, TTB, have announced a two-day general strike.

Even two of the three main opposition parties, the Kemalist CHP and pro-Kurdish HDP, were in solidarity during the protests against the government.

Current bombings and the threat of a prolonged civil war aside, there is a long list of challenges that will need to be addressed in order for Turkey to get back onto the path of a promising future.

The main items on the agenda are dealing with the corruption scandal, the restart of the peace process with the Kurds, the prosecution of those involved in the suicide bombings and reconciliation of differences between Kurds and Turks, as well as Kemalists and more moderate Muslims.

Only time will tell if tackling this agenda will remain wishful thinking — or has a shot at becoming reality.


Erdogan’s inflammatory rhetoric and direct attacks against the opposition contributed to this tragedy.

Erdogan is ready to risk everything just to maintain his grip over the politics of Turkey.

AKP government’s first reaction after the blasts was to ban press coverage and send riot police.

Since June, the number of dead has reached over 600, pushing Turkey towards a full-blown civil war.

Opposition forces may finally feel the need to unite if they want to challenge the AKP government.