TURKEY’S CRISIS: The Ankara Attack, the Kurds & the Fall of Democracy…

Turkish supporters with flag

The two explosions at a peace rally in Ankara that have killed at least 128 people and injured some 245, occur amid ongoing tensions in Turkey and a danger of matters escalating to an even worse situation.

The blasts took place as people were gathered for a march organised by entirely leftist groups. The TV footage shows a peaceful, even playful, atmosphere suddenly disrupted by a visible explosion in the background, with people then either fleeing in panic and distress or on the ground covered in blood.

The attack is the deadliest ever of its kind on Turkish soil; but it comes three weeks before a re-run of this June’s inconclusive parliamentary elections, and this may be a very significant point.

The peace rally, populated more or less exclusively by pro-Kurdish activists, pacifists and Turkey’s liberals, was demanding an end to the violence between the Kurdish separatist PKK militants and the Turkish government. The pro-Kurdish HDP party was among those in attendance, and its representatives have said in a statement that they believe their party members were the main target of the bombings.

This is significant because the HDP is the reason the ruling Erdogan/AK party didn’t achieve an outright majority election victory in June, and it isn’t the first time they’ve been attacked either.

There are other curiosities reported from the scene of the attack. One witness to the event, Bulent Tekdemir, who was at the rally, told the BBC that the police used tear gas “as soon as the bomb went off”, and “would not let ambulances through”. A local resident said that angry people tried to attack police cars after the blast, while the HDP itself tweeted that police had “attacked” people trying carry the injured away.

The official line at this early stage seems to be that two suicide-bombers (allegedly with ISIL/Daesh affiliation, although ‘leftists’ are also being blamed) carried out the attack. But is it possible that these were attacks carried out with state collusion, or even exclusively *by* (deep) state actors and with ISIL/Daesh as a convenient cover story? That’s the accusation being made by some, particularly those who perceive themselves to be the target of these attacks.

It’s also odd to suggest – as many Turkish conservatives already have – that ‘extreme leftists’ would carry out a bombing on other ‘leftists’.

Also ‘ISIL’ appears not to have taken any credit for the attack.

Also, as fellow independent blogger James Robertson points out in his post, ‘Even if the Ankara massacre miraculously turns out to have been an authentic ISIL terror attack, the Turkish state is so deeply entwined with the criminal terror group as to make the distinction almost meaningless at this stage.’ He continues, succinctly as usual, ‘The worst terror attack in the history of the Turkish Republic, the people know precisely who is to blame and the thugs of the Turkish Deep State are not going to be allowed to get away with this one. Political Waterloo has arrived for the increasingly Napoleonic Erdogan and his AK party.’



As mentioned, this attack hasn’t occurred in isolation. An HDP rally in the city of Diyarbakir was bombed in June, ahead of those general elections in which the party had entered the Turkish parliament for the first time and deprived President Erdogan’s AK party of the majority it had sought (and expected). And in July was the suicide bombing by suspected Islamic State militants on a gathering of socialist youth activists in the town of Suruc, which killed at least 30 people.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan was excepting a big majority for the AKP earlier this year, which would have allowed him and his allies to push decisively for *stated* constitutional changes he sought to bring about to make the office of president, and obviously he himself, even more powerful.

This desire to alter the constitution has been openly stated and has caused a great deal of concern in Turkey, as a friend of this blog (Migarium) pointed out to me in this earlier post.

The Constitution of the Republic of Turkey (also known as the Constitution of 1982), is modern Turkey’s fundamental foundation stone, laying out the rules for the state’s conduct and its responsibilities to its citizens, as well as clearly establishing the rights of the people and also clearly asserting that Turkey is a secular, democratic republic answerable to the people.

Instead Turkey is now governed by an increasingly undemocratic, overly religious and aggressive state that is seeing the society polarise and begin to destabilise, while also engaging in illegal operations abroad and facilitating terrorism against its neighbour, Syria.

A perception, even an accusation, also lingers that President Erdogan and his government have used the Syria crisis as a means of stirring up anxieties over the Kurdish population and longstanding desires for independence, and have in turn also used the ‘Kurdish Problem’ as a means of stirring up nationalist feelings among the population, which in turn can be harnessed for the benefit of his government and party.

He has also, rather remarkably, blamed the West’s support for Kurdish anti-ISIL fighters as being the cause of the instability in Syria (as opposed to, say, the fact that Turkey has conveniently loaned its border to would-be jihadists from all over to slip into Syria and wage war).

 President Erdogan, Turkey 

After previous incidents of unrest, many Kurdish businesses were destroyed by nationalist mobs. The headquarters and various branches of the HDP were also attacked and there were reports of lynchings of ordinary Kurds. The July terrorist incident in Suruc (attributed to ISIL) was directed at pro-Kurdish activists, yet the state’s subsequent anti-terror operation resulted in the arrest of 847 suspected PKK members (and yet only 137 suspected ISIL sympathizers).

The leader of the HDP (pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party) has recently warned that the country is on the verge of a Civil War between state forces and militant Kurdish separatists (the HDP itself doesn’t at all qualify as ‘militant’).

Were that to be so, the destabilisation effects in both the Middle East and Europe – which Turkey sits between – could be devastating.

Selahattin Demirtas had, prior to the escalation of violent incidents, been successfully reaching out to non-Kurdish voters and had won praise for his general behaviour, for example his entirely tempered and statesman-like response to the bomb attack on a HDP party rally (that killed two people) that had occurred just two days before polls in June. Demirtas has been labelled by some as the “Kurdish Obama” for both his dynamic speaking style and his perceived progressive ideas. Having won more than 13% of the vote this year, he is in theory able to lead some 80 or so HDP representatives into parliament; something that has outraged conservatives and AKP supporters.

He is credited with having transformed the HDP into a mainstream liberal party, effectively broadening its appeal beyond the basic voter base of Kurds and further to encompass secular Turks, liberals, women and the gay community, who have all been increasingly marginalised by the Erdogan government and even villified by the state.

The HDP ran on a platform defending the rights of ethnic minorities, women, and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people – and was able to bring about a loose coalition between the Kurdish minority in Turkey’s south-east and liberals/progressives in Istanbul and elsewhere. Erdogan himself used to be able to do this too to some degree and his party is regarded as having been much more inclusive and liberal a decade or so ago, when he and his party’s rise was taken by many to have been a promising development for democracy and social inclusivity in the country.

His position, however, has become increasingly conservative, Islamist and neo-imperialist as time has gone on. The ultra-religious (at least on the surface of it) Erdogan has, somewhat amusingly, called Demirtas an “infidel”.

 HDP supporters in Turkey 

President Erdogan, however, hasn’t only been using the ‘Kurdish Problem’ to play into nationalist feelings, but has used it to further suppress liberals, leftists and freedom of speech and information.

To the AKP, not only are all Kurds loosely regarded as ‘terrorists’, but even non-Kurdish left-wingers have begun to be regarded in the same light, with all dissenters in the society increasingly labelled as a threat. This is standard practise for oppressive governments worldwide and throughout history, of course – the presence of ‘terrorists’ or a perceived terrorist threat are a god-send, because not only can the state take all sorts of measures for the sake of ‘security’ and ‘order’, but it can also use ‘terrorist’ as a blanket term for any unwanted opposition, dissent or social or political activism, and the fear of the real ‘terrorists’ can easily be redirected into anger towards the fictional ‘terrorists’.

And the present government has cracked down on not only protesters in the streets but also on investigators within state institutions.

Last December, prosecutors had produced evidence of corruption in the government, and an audio tape was leaked in which Erdogan apparently advises his son, on the morning that the corruption scandal went public, to remove large amounts of money from their home and to hide it with family friends and associates. The President has insisted that the recording (along with other leaked tapes) are “fake”.

With pretty much all major media in Turkey now under government control, there was more or less a media blackout on the scandal, which forced Turks to turn to social media in order to find out more about the scandal. The tapes had been uploaded to You Tube and circulated on Twitter, and Turks unhappy with the government were able to openly criticise the alleged corruption. Erdogan and the government responded by shutting down access to both sites. Turkish access to Twitter was only restored because the Constitutional Court insisted on it; You Tube, however, remains officially blocked now in supposedly free and democratic Turkey.

The reality is that President Erdogan clearly perceives his substantial electoral support (and it is substantial) as carte blanche to do whatever he sees fit, including undermining rights, suppressing protest, controlling the media, interfering with the independence of the judiciary, and eventually probably even altering the constitution.

For all of that, Erdogan and AKP aren’t the worst-case scenario in Turkey, given the ambitions of the right-wing nationalists of the MHP; and an argument could be made that in a time of instability both within Turkey and on its borders, a strong, steady government (even one repeatedly straying towards dictatorship-like properties) is the best, even the necessary, safeguard against chaos or terrorism (which would be the argument made by, for example, President Sisi in Egypt, and is the same argument previously used by the likes of Assad). It would be understandably difficult, however, to convince the 20% of the population made up by Kurds of that notion, nor the country’s many liberals and leftists who are being vilified, suppressed and often attacked by the current establishment.

It is also a fact that dictatorships and power-hungry individuals throughout history have been more than happy to deliberately exacerbate (or even create) the very instability or tension in their societies that they then claim to be the only power, party or dictator strong enough to ‘fix’.

The reality is that Turkey, which for decades has sought to be a secular democracy that keeps religion at a safe distance from the affairs of government, is now being run by an increasingly dictatorial leadership that is surrounded by equally religious, Islamist conservatives who most likely regard the country’s secular constitution a nuisance.

Control of the media also means that the real dangers of this state of affairs are seldom discussed honestly.

And there is of course a danger in opposing or trying to interfere with this new Turkish state. Turkish army officers and others have been accused of plotting against the present state on several recent occasions. Most recently, in September 2012, 324 soldiers were sentenced to terms of imprisonment ranging from 13 to 20 years, allegedly for plotting to overthrow the current leadership. Highly placed officers – including former chief commanders in the air-force and the navy have been sentenced to 20 years‘ in prison.


So is Turkey looking at a grim future, or at least a grim immediate future, in which cultural tensions are amplified, in which an increasingly hard-line government continues to consolidate power, even potentially changing the constitution, and in which the progressives and liberals are going to be further marginalised and demonised?

Is it also looking at a security breakdown, or even, as the HDP representative suggested, a Civil War scenario that would further destabilise both the Middle East *and* Europe?

 Turkish supporters with flag 

Or could things in fact go the opposite way sooner or later?

Michael Koplow, policy director of the Israel Policy Forum and an analyst of Middle Eastern politics, discusses the possibility that Turkey’s future might ultimately be a liberal one, partly as a reaction to growing dissatisfaction with the current government. Could a more secularist, liberal backlash, perhaps guided in part by the HDP and its unprecedented vote-share earlier this year, change things at a crucial juncture?

And could all of these ‘terror attacks’ aimed at the pro-Kurdish parties and leftists have the opposite effect of what was intended and in fact unify and strengthen the opposition?

Admittedly, it’s only a hypothesis, but we have to allow *some* space for optimism here and there. I personally have had a number of Turkish friends over the years, some of them committed Muslims, some of them not religious at all; but all of them were essentially liberal and progressive in outlook, and I can’t imagine any of them being happy with the government Turkey presently has.

Ironically enough, a broadly liberal, progressive counter-movement in Turkey would inevitably involve the Kurdish minority and pro-Kurdish sympathisers, would result in an improved or preferable situation for Kurds in Turkey (possibly even negating future pushes for actual independence), would likely unify the Turkish liberals, and would be characterised by a moderate Sunni temperament within a secular government and state in which the constitution would be safe.

That might be the best ‘hope’ for Turkey, and for the Kurds too, moving forward. Whether it happens or not remains to be seen.

S. Awan

Independent journalist. Pariah. Believer in human rights, human dignity and liberty. Musician. Substandard Jedi. All-round failure. And future ghost.


  1. Reblogged this on the burning blogger of bedlam and commented:

    Turkey’s ruling party, the Justice and Development Party (AKP) has won its outright majority in Turkey’s snap election days ago.

    It is a result that has surprised many, given that polls had predicted a similar result to the inconclusive June election; though to others it would’ve been no surprise at all that the AKP and President Erdogan have attained precisely what they sought. This election has taken place amid ongoing intimidation of oppoistion parties and supporters, ‘terrorist’ attacks specifically targeting leftists, liberals, pro-Kurdish supporters and members of the HDP party that had been so crucial in denying the AKP its majority back in June.

    The AKP, which exclusiely controls the military, the judiciary and the media, is also being accused of vote-rigging.

    While this result spells out a bleak immediate future for the country’s liberals and progressives, and may also pave the way for the AKP to subvert the Turkish constitution, it in some ways perhaps unsurprising that the party – even if there was elements of vote-rigging – might’ve won a legitimate majority: in times of fear, insecurity and potential chaos, voters naturally default with the devil they know and with the party that promises stability and guards against the uncertainties of change.

  2. The things what I wanted to say about HDP.

    HDP and Selahattin Demirtas. Firstly, it needs to open a parenthesis on Selahattin Demirtas. Selahattin Demirtas is a special person. He is a man who really understand to Anatolian people, stands against AKP hegemony, walks in front of all Anatolian people, including Kurds, Turks, Circassians, Laz or etc without fear. This made him a much-needed leader. It really gives hope to people of Anatolia, due to he is one of the leader of HDP’s two leaders.

    If we look at HDP. A maximum of 30% of MPs in HDP is thinking and moving like Selahattin Demirtas. The basis of this lies on the character of the land in Turkey’s Southeastern Anatolia Region where HDP gets most votes. That is to say, after the War of Independence of Turkey, it has not been a land reform in Turkey. Feudal system of the Ottoman era continued as prevail in this region. Kurdish feudal chiefs in this region has been providing profits over people’s land, and they did not give enough payment for their labor they deserve. And even slavery was/is applied officially on local people. And these feodal Kurdish chiefs are not the only region’s rich, they are richest people almost the whole of Turkey in today’s. This region people know that if they don’t do what the feodal chiefs want, they would starve, unfortunatelly. In this regard, the most responsible of this result is the governments of Republic of Turkey from at the beginning until today’s. And the people of the region was left in the hands of both the poverty and these feodal chiefs. This was done deliberately by most governments. It is very clear. The happening in these days in Turkey cannot be explained not knowing these truths.

    The people who were left ignorance and poverty in the region, naturally, has fallen into the hands of religious groups and communities. For example, Hezbollah is among them. And that is why, it is the religious part of Turkey is the Southeastern Anatolia region of Turkey.

    This is the situation of the region where HDP gets the most votes. This is why, 70% of MPs of HDP in the region, consists of these Kurdish feodal chiefs and supports. And the speeches of these 70% are in the same equivalence with bigots at Saudi Arabia.

    If these truths aren’t sound believable, for this subject it can be searched with writing Hezbollah, meeting, Diyarbakır at google. Hezbollah makes a rally in every year in this region, usually more than 1 million people attends. They celebrate something they said prophet Muhammad’s holly birthday week, in every April. And those who support the Hezbollah meetings, are such as parties like HDP (BDP is previous HDP’s party name,), AKP and the others supporters and terrorists groups like PKK. Yes, PKK which has name so called left wing workers’ party actively participate in Hezbollah meetings. All them flags can be seen side by side in these meetings.

    And I think Selahattin Demirtas is a special person who wants to rescue the party and the people of the region from this situation. It is currently very difficult to be managed of this situation. Because nobody can predict the outcome of the 1 November elections in this crooked layout by AKP in Turkey. And there is already a known fact that dictators come with the election but they never go away with the election.

    I tried to explain the situation in both my comments with concrete informations. At the two countries on this planet, I have got education in Russia and Turkey. Firstly in Russia, later Turkey, then again Russia and after then Turkey. Of course, this seems like a confusing situation. One thing I knew for sure, I was lucky. Because these were scientifically based educations. I learned what the truth of something maybe it was the hardest thing and I’ve seen this on this planet. Already, I had not experienced such a confusing thing on my planet where I came from:) For example, I have read the articles about Russia’s Ukraine Holocaust, most of them were not true. The article or blog writers had put some Russian documents, but these hadn’t related to the reality. Even, there was nothing to support the Ukraine Holocaust in that Russian documents. Several bloggers were very angry at me when I said this truth. I did not know how so easy to make people angry. Thus I’ve learned 🙂

    As a result, as being a socialist extraterrestrial who will give vote to Communist Party next 1 November election in Turkey, I am sorry that because of what happened in Turkey. Anatolian people are pressing under rich elites, feodal order, AKP hegemony, pro-imperialist policies in a way that don’t deserve at all like every human being. This is likely to continue in this way for a while, but it will not continue in this way forever. This layout will change like every crooked layout.

    And thank you my Earthling friend for your patience for reading until this line of my comment.

    • And thank you, my extra-terrestrial friend, for providing such detailed, interesting contributions, which you are always welcome to do.
      I might not always agree with you on every detail, but I like reading things from your very rich perspective – as I’m sure others do too.

  3. Yes I Agree with Rober Great Blog, and way of Presenting items. Thanks.

    have you see this –

    At 1;45 –

    “As prime minister, without shame, you said you arrested the perpetrator of the Suruc bombing. You stated this an hour ago. You said: “We have arrested Abdurrahman Acikgoz and gave him to the hands of our judiciary system.”
    In fact, Abdurrahman Acikgoz, the suicide bomber, blew up into pieces.
    Whom did you arrest? To which judicial system did you transfer him?
    Is it possible that any good can come from a person who lies like this when addressing the nation?..

    At 5;42 –

    ” Let’s take a look at their rallies. Security measures start taking place from ten streets away.
    Today, [it was] as if they purposely let two suicide bombers the crowd who wanted peace. No checking, no security. There was nothing.
    Not enough. The suicide bomber exploded himself. There were wounded people on [the] ground. Five hundred people almost. They are not in a position to breathe. The police was given orders to throw gas bombs.
    The wounded are close to death. They had to fight against tear gas too. Those who carried the wounded struggled with tear gas. They fought against the pressurized water thrown from police tactical units.
    One hundred dead, five hundred wounded on [the] ground and people had to struggle with tear gas and water. Is this your understanding of justice?
    Instead of giving an account of what happened, [Davutoglu] appears on TV, starts blaming HDP and Demirtas, avoids their responsibility as government, distorts reality and blames others. What kind of arrogance and irresponsibility is this?
    A journalist asked the interior minister whether he will resign, and the [minister] grins. His answer is mixed with a grin.
    100 people lie in the morgue. The appointed minister, so-called justice minister, responds with a grin on his face.

    Video Here –


    • Thanks Brian, that’s an excellent contribution to the matter. And yes, it looks a lot like false-flag terrorism to me; I didn’t overstate it in the article because I’m not in Turkey and I might be missing a whole bunch of important factors. But what you’ve just shared obviously adds to the suspicion.

  4. I’m a little envious of your skill to present current affairs with such clarity and logic. Welcome done my friend. Great article. Im always fascinated by what goes on in Turkey because of my Byzantine interests.

    • Thanks man; coming from a fellow writer/blogger with such a quality site of your own, I appreciate that.
      I don’t even *think* of the Byzantine era when I think of Turkey, but I obviously should; I tend, reflexively, to think primarily of the Ottoman era.

      • Ottoman conquest, expansion and eventual decline is also very fascinating. What some people don’t realize is how influential they really were. The whole WW1 era and the rise of the Young Turks fascinates me too. Been reading about the Armenian persecution during the war.

        • The breadth of your knowledge of all different areas of history is fabulous, Rob. As far as I’m aware, there’s disagreement to this day as to whether the Armenian ‘genocide’ *was* actually a genocide or not, isn’t there..?

          • Whether we call it genocide, mass murder or something else, I believe it did happen. Denying that the Armenian ‘genocide’ didn’t happen is in my opinion like denying the Jewish holocaust didn’t occur during ww2. Its an inconvenient truth for some people. I thing its safe to say that anywhere between 600,000 to 1.3 million Armenian were forced to march from Anatolia to Syria. I’m still learning about it and don’t pretend to know all the facts. All nations are ashamed about things that they did in the past. For example, I’m proud of my Croatian background, but I’m ashamed of the terrible things the Ustasha did during ww2.Croatians like the Turks or Serbs aren’t inheritable bad. The Armenian ‘genocide’ is something I will eventually cover in my ww1 series and soon I am writing an article on the 20th anniversary of the end of the Croatian conflict. It will be difficult to be objective, as I have vested interests. I can only try 🙂

          • I look forward to reading it; your World War I articles are extremely good reading.
            As for being objective, yeah it can be tricky sometimes. I find myself walking a tight-rope in that respect a lot of the time.

  5. I know that you wanted to make the assessment by putting forward the available data, my Earthling friend. But inside this information, there are knowledges which show the left wing’s hypocrites on the planet. Yes hypocrisy of the left-wing, and unfortunately, it is more dangerous than the right-wing. Because the left has to be rational and scientific, however, a scientific opinion and rationalism can be expected from the right-wing up to a point. The non-scientific subjects in here is PYD is seen as Kurdish freedom fighters by especially leftist-Western.

    Rational data 1) The PKK is a terrorist organization. It has established by Gladio. Establishment date of PKK is almost equal after the 12 September military coup which was supported by CIA openly in Turkey. It’s goal is to build a puppet Kurdish state which will direction by United States and Israel in the region, not independet state. Even if people think, their purpose is oil, it’s actually aim is to provide the Euphrates and the Tigris waters extend to Israel. And plus, this puppet state will provide of American hegemony more closer to China and Russia. For these aims, the military training and sheltering opportunity were given to PKK militants at such NATO countries from Germany to Greece, even on an island in ocean.

    Rational data 2)The PYD is PKK’s Syria arm. One year ago, when Obama announced that USA support to PYD, thousand of PYD made meeting with saying “Long live Obama”.And with USA support of PYD fought against ISIS which was created by CIA. Kurdish corridor which is desired to create by USA and Israel at northern Syria and Iraq, will close the road Mediterranean of Russia. Israel will ensure complete control over Palestine, because of the geographical area of Palestine it will be completely closed. PYD has been killing people in the ISIS residential area that they gained back with fighting. These people who killed by PYD are mostly Arabs and Turkmen. And the names of city in this region is changed by PYD as Kurdish city. And almost all was known as Turkmen and Arab cities for centuries. For example, Kobane is in real a Arab city and it’s name has been name Ayn-al Arabi for centuries. But the cities have been touted as if everywhere belongs to Kurdish people. Even the other people in the cities has plowed, and population records were generated only from Kurdish population. Even a report finally appeared about what the super things PYD did!


    These are just a small part what they did.

    There is a news from today. It was about the new organization which is called Syria Democratic Forces and established by US. After the equip-training forces which support by especially USA-Turkey have failed, USA officers announced that they will not support them again. And this new organization, so called against ISIS, but actually it is against Assad regime and Russia. If I return back the news, according to news, USA gave 50 ton gun support to this new organization. Inside of this organization, there are a lot of groups. One of them is PYD of these groups.

    News is Turkish but in here its link:

    How much sadly for left thought, western leftist stand behind of PYD and PKK which has got these history and so many things that I couldn’t write. (because of I don’t have so much time and enough English ability:)

    I want to ask to western leftist who think in this way. May it be any leftist group which support by USA and Israel or NATO? Have you ever seen a leftist freedom fighter was advertised almost everyday by mainstream media? If the answer is yes, the happened in Cuba, Latin America, China, Russia, Vietnam should been lived another planet!

    And there were somethings that I wanted to say about HDP but this comment was long, it may be later:)

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