We have to stay calm, says the Turkish government. But how can you stay calm in the middle of a black summer? It’s been the deadliest for many years, even continuing during Ramadan and Eid al-Fitr. Monday evening’s bomb blast in Gaziantep was the lowest point: nine civilians, including four children, died, and 70 people were wounded.
So far it remains unclear who is responsible for the attack. As Ahmet Altan of Taraf newspaper put it: ‘The PKK says they didn’t do it. If that’s true, that leaves two other options: the Syrian secret service and the Turkish deep state. One of these three did it. Maybe two of them did it together. Or maybe all three did it together.’
The government was quick, very quick to blame the PKK for the attack. Now they are not so sure. It might have been Syria. Or no, it might have been Iran. Or some other country in the region ? But the damage of hasty conclusions had been done: offices of the pro-Kurdish BDP were attacked by angry people, including two in Gaziantep and one in Kocaeli, not far from Istanbul. Does the AKP now see that tension in society could just rise too high, and is that the reason why their suspicions are beginning to turn openly to beyond the Turkish border?
Demands for freedom
Maybe we should see the words of the BDP in that light too. They denounced the bombing from the beginning, but after a few days they went further than that. The BDP’s deputy group leader Gültan Kisanak said that ‘if the PKK did this, it harms the Kurdish demands for freedom’. Her fellow BDP MP Sirri Sureyya Önder was quoted as saying a few days after ‘Gaziantep’ that ‘bombs don’t lead to democracy’. Their contribution to easing tensions in society?
Many Turks have no doubt the PKK did it, and for the first few days after the bombing, the government confirmed it without knowing for sure. And even if the public thought the Syrian or Iranian secret service did it, or the Turkish deep state, where would they direct their anger if they lose control of themselves? Attack the Syrian or Iranian embassy? Throw stones at Turkish state institutions? Besides the security at those places making it practically impossible to do so, it’s hard to imagine that Turks who can’t control their anger and grief would consider taking it out on anything but the PKK, or, more preciese, on those who are somehow related to it.
And that is, however horrible and illegal, understandable. The conflict that is tearing this society apart now is not the war in Syria or the dictatorship in Iran, and not the actions of the deep state. It’s the Kurdish issue and the related war between the PKK and the Turkish army, (in which the deep state of course plays a role, but that’s another blog post). That is the conflict that has caused so much pain in both Turkish and Kurdish families. Openly for the last twenty-eight years since the PKK took up arms, secretly in the decades before that.
Of course, it is important that people stay calm and that the government asks them to stay calm. But look who’s talking. The government is responsible for keeping people as safe as possible, but failed to do so. Stay calm, ministers tell the people whom they have left standing in the cold, but they don’t stay calm themselves. Not right after the bombing, by pointing the finger at the PKK too soon, nor in their general approach to trying to reach peace in this country.
And as for the PKK, after the Gaziantep bombing they continued with attacks on military targets in the Southeast. Six soldiers died, if I managed to correctly keep track of the death toll this week. ‘Showing their strength in the region’, it’s called, and I even heard a PKK supporter say ‘they are very successful in that’. Wouldn’t be my choice of words, to say the least. How about a cease fire?
In the end, it’s not about who started the violence, but who feels calm and strong enough to give it up. Neither the government nor the PKK seem calm and strong enough. I cry for Turkey.