Turkey’s recent past has been punctuated by terrorist atrocities that reinforce its internal and regional conflicts – and lead it further from the peace and stability it used to thrive on.
The latest attack killed 44 people and wounded 166 at a soccer stadium in Istanbul on Saturday night. Many were police who died in this murderous bombing claimed by a Kurdish breakaway group.
The Turkish government has since then arrested more than 200 members of the opposition pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party, the third largest in parliament, accusing them of complicity in the atrocity despite their denials.
The detentions come on top of the huge repression directed against civil servants, military, media and civilians since the attempted coup against President Erdogan last July. It has gone far beyond the counter-measures merited by that ham-fisted action allegedly by Gulenist Islamic conspirators to embrace a host of others opposed to Erdogan’s mounting authoritarianism.
Commentators see a link between the timing of the stadium attack and publication of a draft bill to transform Turkey’s parliamentary democracy into an executive presidency led by Mr Erdogan. He has escalated the state’s conflict with Kurdish groups to appease Turkish nationalists and bid for their support for this change.
That in turn has deepened Turkey’s involvement in the Syrian civil war and in Iraq where Kurds are also a powerful regional group. The huge flow of refugees from these conflicts became a bargaining counter in Turkey’s relations with the European Union; but that relationship too is now in question because of his domestic repression. Along with mounting economic difficulties, a falling currency and much reduced tourism revenues it is a difficult time for this important regional power.
There are few signs that Kurdish militants will scale back their terrorist actions or that the state will refrain from its wholesale attacks on their supporters and enclaves. Turkey seems set on a path of escalated conflict just when its people, institutions and economy can least afford it.