Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Turkey: Those terror attacks that recall the tension strategy of the 1970’s, by Giovanni Giacalone

The death toll of the terror attack that took place at the street demonstration in Ankara last Saturday raises to 128, while the wounded are 508, around 60 of them in serious conditions; this according to local sources.
On Saturday afternoon ten-thousand people took the streets of Istanbul yelling “assassin State”, “we know the responsible”. Turks and Kurds, seculars and religious, all together to call for the immediate resignation of Erdogan and his AKP government.

On Sunday same scenes in Ankara where thousands of people, after commemorating the bloodbath, responded to the call of the trade unions, the secular groups, left-wing and pro-Kurdish forces, gathering again to point the finger against the Islamist government, yelling “Erdogan assassin” and “the government must resign”. The tension between street protesters and the Turkish police was very high.
The Turkish security service see ISIS as possible responsible for the attack:
"This attack was in the style of Suruç and all the signs are that it was a copy of that attack ... the signs point to ISIL".
And again:
"All signs indicate that the attack may have been carried out by ISIL. We are completely focused on ISIL”. [1]
The other attacks
On July 20th thirty-three pro-Kurdish activists on their way to Kobane were slaughtered by a suicide-bomber in Suruc, near the Syrian border. An attack that pulled Turkey into chaos and caused an escalation of violence that re-opened the conflict with the Pkk after a truce that was lasting since 2013.
On June 5th , right before the elections, two explosive devices were detonated at an Hdp reunion in Diyarbakir, two explosions at close range caused the death of four people and hundreds of injured. On Saturday it was the turn of the Ankara demonstration and it might not be a case that the previous day the Pkk had announced a truce in order to grant the safety of the elections that will take place on November 1st. The Pkk had also stated that it was ready to respond in case of aggression by the Turkish army.
The targets of the attacks are always the same: the seculars, the left wing but above all the HDP, the pro-Kurdish party guided by the charismatic figure of Selahattin Demirtas who managed to break the AKP’s hegemony at the last elections in June 2015. Akp lost 80 seats and had to give up the absolute majority, with only a 40.9% achieved.
It is likely that the bloodsheds aimed at embittering the clash against the Kurds in order to exasperate an already white-hot situation and gain consent among the population?
According to expert Gian Micalessin it is “a simple and efficient strategy because the clash with the Kurds traditionally tends to polarize and radicalize the voters, granting the government more consent. It is not a case that last July Ankara put into action a violent offensive against the Pkk bases and against the twin formations in Syriaa and northern Iraq. In addition to this, an extremely violent campaign is being carried out by Erdogan and his men, with the objective of delegitimizing  the Hdp and depicting it as the true arm of Pkk. An excessive accusation, since the Hdp, even though it does have some clear relations with Pkk, it is way far from sharing its methods and strategies”. [2]
Is it possible that going to the elections in a “police state” can somehow affect the fairness of the voting procedures? This is another point to ponder about.
The street reactions, at least up to now, do not seem favorable to Erdogan, with protesters accusing the “deep State” of planning the attack and with the international community that tends to become more suspicious on Turkey; a country that seems further and further from Europe and that runs the risk of seriously embarrassing Nato.
Fears of repression
Erdogan fears the elections, he fears the possibility of losing control and being unable to implement those reforms required to transform Turkey into a presidential republic.
In reality Erodgan already lost control and his systematic measures to suppress any type of dissent clearly show it: judges and police officers fired for investigating the alleged corruption cases that involved Erdogan’s entourage; the systematic arrests of protesters, media men, intellectuals, journalists such as Bulent Kenes, chied-editor of newspaper Today’s Zaman, accused of “insulting Erdogan”.
It is not the first time that Today’s Zaman is targeted by the President. On December 14th 2014 the Turkish police raided its headquarters and arrested 27 journalists, including the director, Ekrem Dumanli, while supporters were protesting and yelling “free press will not be silenced”.
With Erdogan, Turkey reached a new and unheard level of repression against the media and it is not a case that the Committee to Protect Journalists (CTP) recently illustrated how Turkey has become one of the biggest prisons for journalists.
The most frequent accusation is “insulting the President”, a theater already seen in Mohamed Morsy’s Egypt in 2013. The former Egyptian President was also obsessed by his own figure, to the point that the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information had denounced the sad record of “Morsy’s rule” in regards to charges pressed against journalists and media men. According to such report, the legal complaints (in only one year) were four times more than during the Mubarak era and twenty-four times more than Sadat’s.
It is probably not a case that Morsy and Erdogan, both of them linked to the Muslim Brotherhood, got along so well and yet today the Turkish President refuses to recognize the new Egyptian government lead by Abdelfattah al-Sisi.
Bilal Erdogan in Bologna, Italy
In the meantime there is news that the son of Tayyp erdogan, Bilal, moved to Bologna with his family to work on his Phd thesis at the American “Johns Hopkins University”.
According to Turkish newspaper Cumhuriyet, as quoted by Repubblica:
“Bilal Erdogan resumed his Phd that he had begun in 2007, working on his final thesis: a commitment that would grant him residency permit in Italy for two years. The newspaper claims that he has also asked the Italian authorities to provide him bodyguards. According to what Ansa wrote, Bilal Erdogan rented an apartment in the center of Bologna, near Piazza Maggiore. His children would be attending a local school”. [3]
However there are some who believe that Erdogan’s son fled and is waiting to see the results of the November elections: among those is Fuat Avni, anti-government whistleblower:
“Bilal Erdogan could have reached Italy on September 27th with a large sum of money as part of an “escape plan” due to November’s premature elections: “They want to keep Bilal in Italy until the elections”. They will decide for his return according to the situation following the vote” said Fuat Avni in his tweets. Bilal was one of the key figures investigated in the 2013 corruption case that also involved four minister of the Akp government that was led at the time by his father”. [4] [5]
It is difficult to state what the real reasons for such decision are, however the sensitive situation in Turkey does legitimate suspicion.
Isis or not
Going back to Saturday’s bloodbath, the Isis clue convinces but also does not.
The Isis “volunteers” have systematically used Turkey as a transit point to reach Syria, using plenty of safe-houses on the areas near the border, such as in Gazantiep.
Istanbul’s airport is destination of many jihadists coming from Europe, such as Hayat Boumedienne, wife of Amedy Coulibaly, the terrorist who attacked the kasher supermarket in Paris. Istanbul was also a transit point for Maria Giulia Sergio and Aldo Kobusi, the two jihadists who left Italy to join Isis.
Several Isis commanders have also been reported as treated in Turkish hospitals, such as Abu Muhammad, in April 2014 in Hatay State Hospital and Emrah Cakan, in February 2015 in a Denzili hospital.
There are also interesting details on the Suruc attack, which was also linked to Isis by the authorities.
The terrorist, identified as 20 years-old Seyh Abdurrahman Alagoz, Turkish citizen, had returned to Turkey after spending time in Syria where he had fought for Isis. Alagoz’s mother had stated that her son had returned home on February 12 and disappeared again shortly after. Other Turkish sources confirmed that the authorities were well aware of the boy’s activities in Syria with Isis-linked groups:
"He was active in a Syria-linked group supporting the Islamic State. We know that he went to Syria illegally. It was not possible to track him during his time there”. [6] [7]
The newspapers Today’s Zaman and Haberturk did not only explain that Alagoz was wanted by the police but also that his father had told the police that his son had disappeared. [8]
In conclusion, Suruc’s attacker was able to leave and return to Turkey with the task of conducting the attack. In Ankara, the Turkish capital, the terrorists were able to detonate the two devices a few hundreds of meters away from the institutional buildings.

Originally published in Italian by "Intellettuale Dissidente" on October 12th 2015