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Ankara Bombing Heightens Unrest In Turkey Ahead Of November Parliamentary Elections

Protesters on the streets of Izmir, Turkey Ocotber 10, 2015 after the bombing in Ankara earlier in the day.
Suzette Grillot
Protesters on the streets of Izmir, Turkey Saturday night after the bombing in Ankara earlier in the day.

Saturday’s bombing at a peace rally in Ankara – and related protests across the country – have united citizens in their frustration with Turkey’s leadership even as government officials say the attacks were intended to widen fissures and stir discontent in the country that straddles Europe and Asia.

“The only good news out of this is that the opposition is getting together, and there's a solidarity among different factions of society,” University of Oklahoma economist Firat Demir told KGOU’s World Views. “Both the Kamalists and the Kurds – and the liberals and the left – they are united in their anger against the current government.”

Demir and host Suzette Grillot are traveling through Turkey in the days before parliamentary elections November 1. He says Interior Minister Efkan Ala’s comments during a recent press conference showed the government’s confidence.

“He said there was no security breach, and they did everything they could,” Demir said. “So perhaps after the election, if you see different scenery regarding election results, it might be different.”

Saturday’s bombings are part of a string of attacks dating back to June. Demir says the Turkish government tried to use the series of bombings as a way to solidify control in elections this summer. The plan backfired as the pro-Kurdish People's Democratic Party (HDP) entered parliament, and the ruling AKP lost its supermajority.

“They could not change the constitution to move the country into a presidential system without any checks and balances,” Demir said. “In a sense, [Prime Minister Recep Tayyip] Erdogan would be come the [Russian President Vladimir] Putin of Turkey.”

This intense political infighting is stressing out everyday Turks.

“Many people were scared that something like this would happen. It was just a matter of time. So this rally was organized by several labor unions, public sector unions, the chambers of commerce, industry, the architects' union, and the Kurdish Party, HDP,” Demir said. “The rally was to pressure the government and the Kurdish guerillas into stopping the warfare and reach a resolution. And this is when it happened.”

Turkey’s government has banned press coverage of the tragedy, and declared a three-day period of mourning. Turkish officials have speculated the two suicide bombers were acting on behalf of self-proclaimed Islamic State militants. Demir said he wouldn’t be surprised to see ISIS involved just below the surface, and thinks that’s contributing to the tension.

“The current government and the president refuse to label ISIS as a terrorist organization. And instead they were very tolerant,” Demir said. “They did not label them as terrorists. ISIS has even a magazine published in Istanbul. It's publicly available and still not banned. The last two bombings were ISIS-related, and the government did not take direct action.”

KGOU and World Views rely on voluntary contributions from readers and listeners to further its mission of public service with internationally focused reporting for Oklahoma and beyond. To contribute to our efforts, make your donation online, or contact our Membership department.

Brian Hardzinski is from Flower Mound, Texas and a graduate of the University of Oklahoma. He began his career at KGOU as a student intern, joining KGOU full time in 2009 as Operations and Public Service Announcement Director. He began regularly hosting Morning Edition in 2014, and became the station's first Digital News Editor in 2015-16. Brian’s work at KGOU has been honored by Public Radio News Directors Incorporated (PRNDI), the Oklahoma Association of Broadcasters, the Oklahoma Associated Press Broadcasters, and local and regional chapters of the Society of Professional Journalists. Brian enjoys competing in triathlons, distance running, playing tennis, and entertaining his rambunctious Boston Terrier, Bucky.
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