The injured wait for help from survivors after the bomb blast in Ankara peace rally. Demotix/Recep Yilmaz. All rights reserved. One day after twin blasts tore through Ankara’s central station area, thousands of protestors gathered near the site of the massacre. Yet despite the pleas of the crowds, a belated security presence has established itself in the capital, denying access to the thousands of citizens seeking to mourn their dead.
It is an acute example of the Turkish State’s obsession with post-mortem protocol, or rather, the illusion of control – in which citizens are seen as a nuisance, to be endured but not protected. Such scenes have become all too common. And even if this is Turkey’s most deadly terrorist attack – for now - how long will it remain so, as the country’s political elite tempts the very forces that threaten to tear it apart? Increasingly, the standard rationale of the War on Terror no longer applies to such attacks. With no group claiming responsibility, the Turkish public’s ire has started to turn against its Government. Not only for failing to protect its people, but for actively encouraging the very forces that wreak turmoil and harness civil conflict.
Already conspiracy theories abound. But what is undeniable, is that were it not for the polarizing strategies, the hateful rhetoric, and the devastating foreign policy of the current Government, a public gathering of peaceful activists, unionists, and associations would have been just that – a pleasant Saturday morning. Instead, more than a hundred Turkish citizens had their lives brutally cut short. The Government’s position; to feign ignorance and lay the blame on others, has become increasingly untenable. Increasingly, the Turkish public suspects this to be what it is – a tragedy that despite repetition fails to become farce.
Despite the shock of Saturday’s massacre, it was an event simultaneously foreseen by many, yet prevented by none. And with less than three weeks to go until the elections, the attacks may herald a striking shift in public attitudes. Instead of blaming foreign fighters already most of the public outcry has been directed against the Turkish Government. Not only for failing to protect its citizens, but for actively courting disaster in the pursuit of political ambitions and petty games. Little wonder, then, that the Government’s immediate response was to enforce a media ban throughout Turkey, rather than attending to the needs of its beleaguered citizens.
And while simultaneously journalists from across the media spectrum were either facing prosecution or imprisonment, PM Ahmet Davutoğlu announced on live television that the attacks could be either attributed to ISIS, the PKK, the DHKP-C, and the MLKP. With such a suicide squad of assorted domestic villains, the Prime Minister’s policy of ‘zero problems with neighbours’ rings hollow. Instead, it has manifested itself paradoxically in a deadly resurgence of Turkey’s domestic issues, reminiscent only of the darkest days of civil conflict endured by Turks during the 1990s.
Only two things appear certain. There will be three days of mourning, followed by three weeks of turmoil. Only then, will the Turkish public be allowed to cast its vote, deciding once and for all whether or not the AKP has recaptured its cherished political majority.
Already the costs of political uncertainty have been too high, and nothing indicates that the upcoming vote will resolve the impasse of having to form a coalition Government. Regardless of the outcome, the tragic loss of so many lives will continue to haunt the country. Without a doubt, the anger and sadness will outlast the next three weeks, and the human cost of the political turmoil will remain imprinted on Turkey’s collective consciousness, no matter what the election results.