In the latest in a series of terrorist attacks in Turkey since last year, Istanbul’s Ataturk International Airport – Europe’s third busiest – was hit by three suicide bombers. According to the official figures, 41 people have died and 239 are injured. There are 13 foreigner nationals amongst the dead. Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım said that initial investigations pointed towards the so-called Islamic State (ISIS), though the terrorist group has not yet claimed responsibility for the attack.
While it is a heinous attack against innocent civilians by a group of mindless terrorists which can happen anywhere in the world, the Turkish authorities are not in any position to simply express anger, condemn and vow to counter the scourge of terrorism in the future. To understand what is happening in Turkey now, it is important to analyse the developments that have unfolded there since the general elections in June 7, 2015.
The results of the election were refreshing for democracy campaigners and rights activists as a pro-Kurdish political party, People`s Democratic Party (HDP) made into the parliament for the first time in the Turkish Republican history. Notably, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has dominated Turkish politics for over a decade, strongly demanded a powerful presidential system in the country since becoming president in 2014.
The Justice and Development Party (AKP) – the party he founded – was determined to secure enough seats in the parliament to call a referendum on changing country`s constitution and bringing in a presidential system as demanded by Erdogan. But the rise of HDP prevented it from achieving that goal.
The ruling AKP`s vote share declined by eight per cent and for the first time in 13 years it lost its parliamentary majority. The AKP could have formed a government in coalition with any of the three other political parties (CHP, MHP and HDP) which entered the parliament with it. But it chose not to do so. In the following days, clashes between Turkish military and country`s Kurdish insurgent group Kurdistan Workers` Party (PKK) started.
With it, an ugly campaign to demonise HDP was also launched. AKP claimed that HDP has direct links with the PKK in order to decrease its newly increased popularity. During the negotiations to form a coalition government and afterwards the AKP-led government continued to be in power as the interim government. Meanwhile, it channelled all its energy and resources in bombing and conducting military operations in the Kurdish dominated south-eastern part of the country and in northern Iraq – notably at the cost of its ongoing struggle against the ISIS. In other words, the AKP government chose to de-escalate its struggle against the monstrous ISIS to start a new, completely unnecessary war against the PKK because it suited its political calculations. As a consequence of such a self-serving decision by the AKP, Turkey became a target of both the ISIS and PKK simultaneously.
The security vacuum created following such an approach has rendered Turkish security apparatus indefensible against the ISIS and incompetent against the PKK. As a result, in just over one year, 17 terrorist attacks have taken place all over the country claiming almost 300 lives, and injuring over 1,000 people. It has become increasingly clear that the AKP government and President Erdogan are ready to do almost anything to hold on to power. Their authoritarianism is destroying the country and this attack must not be seen out of this context.