Bombings in Turkey continue... Over the past couple of years there have been a series of deadly attacks throughout Turkey. The attacks have been blamed on both the Islamic State (ISIS) and Kurdish militants. But why are they happening?
Over the past couple of years there have been a series of deadly attacks throughout Turkey. The attacks have been blamed on both the Islamic State (ISIS) and Kurdish militants. But why are they happening?
In 2016, Turkey’s most populous city, Istanbul, suffered two deadly bombings during January and March. Both were claimed by the Islamic State. Then during February and March of this year, two other bombings also took place in Turkey’s capital, Ankara – killing dozens. These attacks were claimed by the Kurdish Freedom Falcons (TAK), which has been described as a “radical splinter group of the outlawed Kurdish Worker’s Party” (PKK).
Bombings in Turkey over the past couple of years have targeted members of the military, the Turkish police force, and the country’s civilians. It has been suggested that the reason for the increase in attacks on Turkey is due to the breakdown of a two-year cease-fire between Kurdish militants and the Turkish government – leading to hostility and intensified fighting between both actors.
Turkey was one of the first countries to designate ISIS a terrorist organisation, and as part of the U.S.-led coalition against ISIS, Turkey allows coalition planes to fly raids from its territory on Islamic State targets in neighbouring Iraq and Syria. Since these events, the Islamic State has upped its rhetoric against the Turkish government, promising the “conquest of Istanbul”.
Istanbul bombing, June 2016
The string of deadly attacks in Turkey has continued. On 7 June 2016, a bombing occurred in central Istanbul, killing at least 11 people and injuring 36 others. The attack targeted a bus carrying policemen as the vehicle passed through Vezneciler in the city’s historic Fatih district.
The incident took place near the Şehzade Mosque and the Vezneciler Metro station during the morning rush hour. The district is frequented by tourists, with its surrounding areas including a number of upscale hotels, cafes, Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar, and the campus of Istanbul University.
The Kurdistan Freedom Hawks (TAK) have claimed responsibility for the attack, stating it was revenge for Turkish army operations in the country’s Kurdish-dominated south-eastern region. Since the TAK is considered a break-away faction of the PKK, The Turkish government has held the PKK responsible for the bombing.
Istanbul has now been hit four times since January of 2016. It has been reported that the blasts have begun to erode the sense of normality in the cosmopolitan city, home to 14 million people. The Turkish President said “These attacks are against humanity”, calling the incident “unforgivable”, and vouching to “continue to fight against these terrorists, tirelessly, without giving up”.
Midyat bombing, June 2016
On June 8 2016 – one day after the bombing in Istanbul – 2 police officers and 3 civilians were killed by a car bomb in the south-eastern Turkish town of Midyat. The blast wounded 30 other people, who were taken to hospital for their non-fatal injuries.
The explosion happened in close proximity to Midyat’s police office – drawing parallels with the bombing on police in Istanbul just one day prior. The Turkish Prime Minister has blamed the bombing on the PKK, saying “We are not surprised by this, but the circle is tightening around them”.
The increasing levels of violence have affected Turkish citizens, and also had an impact on Turkey’s tourism economy – a key sector of the national economy. In an attempt to
stop the attacks, Turkish officials decided to freeze thesale of fertilisers containing nitrate – which can be used to make explosives.
Intensifying Turkish-Kurdish conflict
In the Kurdish towns of South-eastern Turkey, the conflict continues to worsen. When hostilities were reignited in the summer of 2015, Kurdish militants seized control of neighbourhoods and towns in the country’s southeast.
In response, the Turkish military placed entire towns under 24-hour curfews and shelled residential areas, destroying more than 6,000 buildings and displacing more than 350,000 people.
The Turkish President has now decided to sign in to law a bill that ends legal immunity for members of Parliament. The measure is expected to pave the way for the prosecution of pro-Kurdish lawmakers over alleged ties to armed groups.
For some, there is little hope of a peaceful resolution to the conflict. And for analysts, tensions are set to increase.