Bombing in Ankara: A Game Changer for Turkey and the Region

Turkey has been a stronghold for democracy in a tenuous region. Recently, the Turkish government has been cracking down on minorities by jailing Kurdish opposition leaders. The Kurds are becoming prominent players in the fight against IS and are supported by the EU and the US. This bombing is an indication of the expansion of violence in the Turkey and a rift in the stability of the region. — World Affairs Programs Team

“Turkey redefines journalists as terrorists, while US claims the ally fights terrorism — which it actually supports”
by Ben Norton, Salon, March 15, 2016

Several newspapers in Turkey, including the influential daily Zaman, have been seized by the government and forced to print pro-government material. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has called for a broader definition of terrorism, which would effectively criminalize dissent, which he argues, can help empower terrorists. Following Erdoğan’s statement, the US State Department reaffirmed its partnership with Turkey, a NATO ally. However, the US remains concerned that Turkey is supporting al-Nursa, an al-Qaeda offshoot in Syria, which the US considers a terrorist organization.

“Turkey v Syria’s Kurds v Islamic State”
by BBC Monitoring, BBC, February 19, 2016

The Kurdish rebel group PKK in Turkey has been fighting for autonomy since the 1980s. A ceasefire was reached in2000s after the capture and jailing of their leader, Abdullah Ocalan, only to give way to a new offshoot of the PKK, the YPG. While the Turkish state labels both the PKK and the YPG as terrorist groups, the US and the EU view the Kurdish YPG as an ally in the fight against IS along the Syrian Turkish border. Despite the EU and US asking the Turkish government to cease bombing the Syrian Kurdish group the PYD, aligned with the PKK, the Turkish government continues its efforts. Is the Turkish government using the extremism in Syria as an excuse to eradicate Kurdish forces, or are the Syrian Kurds, backed by the EU and US in Syria, using the conflict to advance on the Turkish border?

“Who are the Kurds?”
by BBC, March 16, 2016

The Kurdish people inhabit the mountains between Iraq, Syria, Iran, Armenia, and Turkey. After the first World War the Kurds were granted a Kurdish state by the Allies in the Treaty of Sevres. The state never came into being due to the subsequent Treaty of Lausanne which set Turkey’s border and left the Kurdish population straddling several countries. The Kurds make up 15–20% of Turkey’s population. The battle for a Kurdish territory has been in motion since 1923. In recent years, IS has been entering the Kurdish territory in Turkey, ushering the Kurds into the conflict without support from the Turkish government. The Turkish government labels the Kurdish forces as dissenters and terrorists.

“Suicide bombing exposes divisions tearing at Turkey’s stability”
by Umit Bektas, Nick Tattersall and Humeyra Pamuk, Reuters, March 16, 2016

Turkey is divided on how to respond to the suicide bombing on Sunday in Ankara that killed 37 people. President Tayyip Erdogan said that Turkey’s anti-terrorism laws, already seen by many to be too invasive, need to be expanded. His critics believe that Erdogan is using the terror attack to redefine what a terrorist is in order to silence dissent. However, there is no one figure who can unite the opposition against Erdogan to reject his policies.

What’s in the News — A weekly selection of topics, and perspectives on world issues from the programs team at the World Affairs Council.

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