ME­DIA WATCH Istanbul bomb­ings: Turkey’s se­cu­rity chal­lenge

Pakistan Observer - - EDITORIALS & COMMENTS -

THE global ex­pres­sions of sym­pa­thy fol­low­ing the at tack on Atatürk air­port re­flect not only the hor­ror of the as­sault but the un­com­fort­able re­minder that ter­ror­ism can strike any­where as peo­ple go about their lives. As Turkey de­clared a na­tional day of mourn­ing, its pres­i­dent Re­cep Tayyip Er­doðan warned that the bombs could have gone off at any air­port in any city around the world: “For ter­ror­ist or­gan­i­sa­tions, there is no dif­fer­ence be­tween Istanbul and London, Ankara and Ber­lin, Izmir and Chicago, or An­talya and Rome,” he said.

After Paris and Brus­sels, no one can be­lieve that other coun­tries are im­mune to such trou­bles, even if some at­tacks draw more in­ter­na­tional out­rage than oth­ers; as noted in Turkey, there was no surge of #je­su­i­sis­tan­bul dec­la­ra­tions. Yet how­ever in­ter­na­tional the threat, the coun­try’s sit­u­a­tion is un­de­ni­ably spe­cific. It would be naive to ig­nore the im­mense and par­tic­u­lar forces at play in the coun­try, given the con­flict with Kur­dish mil­i­tants and the war in neigh­bour­ing Syria, as well as other re­gional dis­agree­ments. In a lit­tle over a year, 17 at­tacks have claimed more than 300 lives in Turkey. While some of those have been claimed by TAK, the Kur­dish Free­dom Fal­cons, more have been blamed on so-called Is­lamic State (ISIS) mil­i­tants, in­clud­ing the sui­cide bomb­ing that killed 103 at an Ankara peace rally or­gan­ised by Kur­dish and leftist groups in Oc­to­ber.

Of­fi­cials have al­ready said they be­lieve ISIS was re­spon­si­ble for Tues­day’s bomb­ing, though there has been no claim of re­spon­si­bil­ity. If they are cor­rect, it marks an es­ca­la­tion by the group and may be re­tal­i­a­tion for Ankara’s de­ci­sion to step up the fight against it. The at­tack tar­geted one of the world’s most ac­tive air­ports, at the heart of Turkey’s econ­omy. The ma­jor­ity of the 41 or more dead were Turk­ish, though it will fur­ther dam­age a tourist in­dus­try al­ready hit by se­cu­rity con­cerns.

The au­thor­i­ties have an unim­pres­sive record in in­ves­ti­gat­ing and hold­ing to ac­count those re­spon­si­ble for pre­vi­ous at­tacks. Sur­vivors and the be­reaved de­serve bet­ter this time. Some will also ar­gue that the as­sault was made pos­si­ble not just by cur­rent se­cu­rity short­com­ings, but by the be­lated na­ture of Turkey’s at­tempts to tackle ISIS. It has been widely crit­i­cised for al­low­ing fight­ers and ma­te­rial across its bor­der with Syria for so long. There are com­plaints that even now, faced as it is with a plethora of chal­lenges, it has not ac­cepted that de­feat­ing ISIS should be its pri­or­ity.

Pres­i­dent Er­doðan pre­ferred to look out­wards and fo­cus on the re­spon­si­bil­i­ties of oth­ers in the wake of the killings, urg­ing western gov­ern­ments and so­ci­eties to make this a turn­ing point in the fight against ter­ror­ism. Pre­cisely what mea­sures he has in mind re­mains to be seen, but se­cu­rity threats have too of­ten en­cour­aged politi­cians to posit false choices be­tween safety and lib­erty, and his record is not re­as­sur­ing. Euro­pean gov­ern­ments may feel their lever­age is more lim­ited than ever, given Mr Er­doðan’s at­tempt to mend fences with Russia and in light of the refugee cri­sis, even if the con­tro­ver­sial “one in, one out” deal ap­pears to be founder­ing. But sup­port­ing the Turk­ish peo­ple need not mean con­don­ing their gov­ern­ment’s in­creas­ing au­thor­i­tar­i­an­ism, which has made it harder rather than eas­ier to man­age the is­sues the coun­try faces. — The Guardian

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