Why is Turkey Facing Such Instability Again?

What’s the Gist?

The police and intelligence security chiefs of Ankara, Turkey’s capital city, were fired by the interior ministry Oct. 14 after two bombs killed at least 97 people and wounded 246 others Oct. 10.

The two bombs blew up almost simultaneously at a peace rally held by pro-Kurdish activists. The government is calling this the deadliest terror attack in modern Turkey’s history and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan admitted to an intelligence failure.

The blame is being pinned on the Islamic State, or ISIS, and the Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK), although no one has yet claimed responsibility. In the aftermath of this attack, tensions in the country have heightened particularly because of the election on Nov. 1.

That’s a lot to take in. Explain the blame-game.

The government blames the PKK for the blasts while the PKK blames the government. Turkey and the United States both consider the PKK to be a terrorist organization. In a press conference Oct. 14, Turkey’s Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu said there was a “high possibility” the PKK and ISIS together “played an effective role in the bombing.”

In the government investigation following the blasts, 12 people have been detained for their tweets on the Oct. 10 attack. But they have not been formally charged.

On the other hand, a police investigation showed the two suspected bombers of the Oct. 10 attack were on a list of potential bombers the police were tracking. One of the suspects, Yunus Emre Alagöz, is the brother of the suicide bomber behind another bomb blast that killed 34 pro-Kurdish activists in July. According to the Turkish website Today’s Zaman, both brothers joined ISIS in 2014.

“If government officials had attended this event, this wouldn’t have happened,” said activist Ayse Bayrak to New York Times. “The police are usually highly vigilant at rallies, searching bags and people, but on Saturday, they just stood there.”

President Erdogan held a press conference Oct. 13 where he said, “Was there negligence? We will know what our failures were, where and how we made mistakes at the end of the investigation.”

Why was a pro-Kurdish rally being held in the first place?

The Kurds are an ethnic minority in Turkey, Syria, Iraq and Iran, who have been fighting for autonomy in Turkey for the last 26 years. In those years, at least 40,000 people have lost their lives.

For the first time in history, a Kurdish political coalition, Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP), gained nearly a 13 percent majority in the parliament during the parliamentary elections held in June. On the flipside, Erdogan’s party, the Justice and Development Party (AKP) lost its majority. A month later, the ceasefire between PKK and the Turkish government, which had been in place since March 2013, was broken after Turkish airstrikes hit PKK camps in northern Iraq July 24.

The PKK announced another ceasefire leading up to the general elections in November.

General elections? I thought they had an election in June.

They did. And now they’re going to have another one. Why? Because Erdogan said so.

But his reason for calling new elections was the failure to come up with a new coalition government after the June elections because the parties don’t want to share power with each other.

Some say Erdogan is hoping the AKP will regain its lost majority after the November elections, and he can change the constitution to give the presidency — ergo himself — more powers, a move he had hoped to make in June.

Brief contributed by Lakshna Mehta.