Twin explosions at a left-wing, heavily Kurdish, anti-government rally in Ankara on October 10 killed over 95 people and left hundreds wounded. The Turkish government almost immediately fingered ISIS, who had previously targeted those groups, as the responsible party. But now, AKP Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu is arguing that the Kurds themselves were in on it. The Wall Street Journal reports:
Mr. Davutoglu said investigations established a strong chance the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, may also be involved in an assault he earlier said was most likely carried out by Islamic State. The government considers both groups enemies of the Turkish state.
Mr. Davutoglu offered only vague details on each group’s potential links with the attacks and one another. He said in a television interview on Wednesday that PKK’s Syrian offshoot met in May with Islamic State, also known as ISIS, to coordinate action against Turkey, despite the two groups’ enmity in Syria. He said representatives from the Syrian regime of President Bashar al-Assad were also at the meeting.[..]
“Daesh and PKK are organizations with a high likelihood of having an active role in these attacks,” Mr. Davutoglu said, using the Arabic acronym for Islamic State.
PM Davutoglu, President Erdogan, and the AKP are facing a “do-over” election on November 1 whose outcome will hinge largely on whether the AKP can keep the Kurdish HDP party under the 10 percent threshold for entry into parliament. Critics have already blamed Erdogan for cynically stoking the Turkish-Kurdish conflict (and thus throwing out years of his own admirable hard work at reconciliation) in order to drive voters away from the HDP and/or to drive Turkish nationalists to seek common cause with the AKP. Now, it appears things have gotten even uglier.
This carries a real cost in Turkish society, one that will be felt long after the election is over. Few outsiders believe the government’s allegations against the PKK, and many within Turkey have started to embrace other theories about who was behind the bombing, even pointing the finger at Erdogan or his government. Michael Rubin details some of the speculation in a piece published in Commentary on Monday. But what matters less than who was actually behind the bombing—and we can of course rule out the Kurds—is how the attack will effect Turkish politics going forward. Turkey’s politics are conspiratorial and even if a culprit was identified by the government, nobody will believe what officials say. As Rubin notes:
Erdoğan’s sorry record of fabricating evidence and using the judiciary and security services to target political adversaries in the guise of Ergenekon and Bayroz investigations, and more recently perhaps in his targeting of Fethullah Gülen’s Hizmet movement should raise serious questions about the ability of Erdoğan to investigate the bombings in Ankara honestly. Simply put, few in Turkey beyond Erdoğan’s partisans are going to trust the current Turkish government to investigate the bombings, and no one outside Turkey should do so.
This will ring true today for many Turks, and even the non-conspiracy minded will now have reason to feel they cannot trust their government not to politicize attacks on the nation. Erdogan may feel that an electoral victory that lets him remake the country is worth anything, even alienating citizens’ trust in the state, or renewing war with the Kurds, or both. Butt for his fellow countrymen, as well as Turkey’s allies abroad, Erdogan’s efforts represent an ever-worsening disaster for his nation.