Ankara mourners

The people demand answers for Ankara

Over 100 Turkish citizens lie dead, with around 300 more injured or maimed by the explosions that rocked Turkey’s capital city on Saturday 10th October. The attacks targeted a Labour and Democracy peace rally, organised by a coalition of Turkey’s left-wing political parties. This senseless tragedy is a reason to mourn, and a reason to once again condemn any threat to democracy anywhere in the world. The people campaigning on that fateful day only wanted the best for their people and their country, and did not deserve to die for that. What makes this situation worse is the fact that the current political climate in Turkey is such that nobody knows where to point the finger of condemnation.

President Recep Erdogan and the governing AKP party were quick to ignite suspicions regarding both ISIS and the Kurdish Workers Party (PKK), and several government security chiefs have been sacked or have resigned in the aftermath of the attack. In the moments after the bombings, Turkish police arrived on scene only to fire tear gas at the fleeing protesters and the families arriving to look for lost loved ones. The police then cordoned off the scene, preventing ambulances and other first responders from being able to access the injured to provide medical attention. Police forces kept the streets surrounding the bomb site closed for several days and attacked any groups that came to protest how the police had dealt with the attack. At the same time, government departments blocked access to Twitter to prevent any public discussion of the attack, an all too frequent occurrence in Turkey.

ISIS are, as mentioned, the main suspects in this suicide attack on the people of Turkey, but several NGOs and citizens groups are doubting this possibility. The radical Islamist group are in control of Syrian territory very close to the Turkish border, and are of course anti-democratic, but in previous attacks, ISIS have always swiftly claimed responsibility for any incident committed by them. The group even go so far as to record attacks live, to draw attention to the brutality that they are capable of, and to use in propaganda videos that they distribute on social media. In this case however, there is only silence on their part. It has been known for groups such as Al-Qaeda to claim responsibility for attacks that were not actually committed by them, but it seems that no terrorist group is taking the credit.

The second suspects are members of the Kurdish Workers Party, a political group outlawed in Turkey for their supposedly ‘radical ideology’. The party began in the 1970s on the platform that it demanded equal treatment and democratic rights for Kurds in Turkey, a racial minority of around 15% of the Turkish population that have suffered harrowing treatment and ethnic cleansing over previous generations. In the face of an uncaring and abusive government, the party quickly turned into a guerrilla group in the 1980s, attempting military coups and attacking heads of state when possible. Today, the group is characterised as a far-left militant group, espousing Leninist ideology and the independence of a Kurdish state. The PKK has recently been active in its war against ISIS, which seeks to exterminate the Kurdish minorities that live in countries such as Syria and Iraq.

Although the Turkish government are keen to accuse a group that seeks to overthrow their rule, I find it unlikely that the PKK are the perpetrators of the attack. The PKK recently offered the Turkish government a ceasefire deal to allow the Turkish General Election to go ahead on 1st November, and pledged that it would conduct no activities in this time unless it was in self-defence against the Turkish armed forces. As well as this, the PKK are a far-left populist group, and if any political group were to support an anti-AKP march by the people for a fair and representative government, would it not be them? Blaming the attack on the PKK seems an easy solution, grounded in straw-man politics and racial discrimination.

The families of the murdered in Ankara will want a peacetime in which to mourn and bury their dead, but with an election in just under a month and continued clashes between police and protesters, this seems unlikely. One thing, however, is certain. Were these murdered protesters still alive, they would be on the streets, marching in solidarity and demanding a fair and open investigation into the attack.

It seems conspiratorial for any populace to blame its government for attacks against its own people, and to residents of the United Kingdom reading this, it would be absurd, but not only is this a possible answer in Turkey, it is the commonly held opinion of the Turkish people. In the days after the attack, tens of thousands gathered in Istanbul, holding a peace vigil for the victims, all the while chanting, “We know the murderers.”

Turkey is a country where the people can feel democracy slipping from their grasp, and many, as we can see, are sacrificing their lives to ensure that their great state continues to represent the people. When the ruling party have enacted numerous policies that violate Turkey’s secular constitution, establish conservative Islamic law, rig elections, and the use of the police as a private military force to crush protests in the capital, I believe the Turkish people when they say that they know who the murderers are.

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