Monday’s suicide blast in the Turkish border town of Suruç has shocked the nation and is now occupying the full media landscape of the country (20 July 2015). Once again, this violent episode has brought Ankara’s fraught relationship with the Kurds in Turkey and Syria to the fore. Yet, blame for the attack was immediately put at the doorstep of Caliph Ibrahim and the Islamic State right across the Turco-Syrian border.
The terror attack on the Amara Cultural Centre in the small Turkish town of Suruç (in the border province of Şanlıurfa), so far claiming the lives of 32 people (with five critically wounded), has rocked Turkey to its core. The attack was targeted at a meeting organized by the Federation of Socialist Youth Associations (SGDF), bringing together young people from all around the country planning to travel across the border in order to offer aid and support for the re-building of the recently liberated Kurdish town of Kobanê. According to the district governor of Suruç, Abdullah Çiftçi, a suicide bomber hit the gathering as a press conference was taking place, while simultaneously an attack occurred in the nearby Kurdish town across the Turco-Syrian border, killing ten individuals. A local witness called Garip Çelik, present at the time of the attack, told the press that “right at the time as pictures were about to be taken a huge explosion occurred. Bodies flew everywhere. We were trapped underneath dead bodies, that was how violent the blast was”. The SGDF was planning to send its delegation to the Kurdish enclave of Rojava as the culmination of its aid campaign for the now-near-destroyed Kobanê (19-24 July 2015). The three autonomous cantons of Kobani, Afrin, and Cizre, making up the district of Rojava, are under the control of the PYD (or the Kurdish Democratic Union Party) that is arguably attempting to put into practice precepts and ideas of “libertarian municipalism” developed by the libertarian socialist thinker Murray Bookchin (1921-2006). These lofty ideals undoubtedly strike a chord in the hearts and minds of the members of the SGDF.
False Flag Attack?
The Turkish Prime Minister Ahmed Davutoğlu went to the stricken town, visiting the local hospital where he spoke to survivors of the blast. Following his visit to Suruç, the wily PM traveled to Adiyaman’s hamlet of Kömür where one soldier died yesterday during a firefight between the army and PKK terrorists. Even though Davutoğlu was quick to blame the Islamic State (IS) for the Suruç blast, the Turkish government appears to continue its armed confrontation with the Kurdish PKK, affiliated with the Syrian PYD and arguably equally committed to Bookchin’s libertarian socialist ideas and ideals. On Monday, 20 July, the wily PM told the press that “[i]nitial findings point to a suicide bomb attack and Daesh [the Arabic acronym for ISIS or the IS]”. Davutoğlu continued saying that “[t]his is a terrorist attack by a suicide bomber. The target of this attack is Turkey”, adding that he “want[s] to make a call to our nation. Maintain your common sense”. In this way, the PM surreptitiously whipped the flames of hatred and distrust by means of appealing for calm. While finishing off by saying that “[w]e have convened with security officials and planned the steps that we will be taking”, hinting at possible military action across the border. Turning solely to his domestic audience, with the ongoing coalition negotiations in mind, the PM Davutoğlu also called for “the signing of joint declaration [by the] four parties [AKP, CHP, MHP, and HDP]”, an appeal rejected by the ultra-nationalist MHP and the Kurdish HDP.
As such, the over the past weeks the Turkish media have been abuzz with talk about a possible cross-border action to thwart Kurdish designs of full independence in Syria, a development that would have wider repercussions in Northern Iraq (the KRG or Kurdish Regional Government) and South-Eastern Turkey (referred to as Northern Kurdistan by many Kurds). And now, this apparent suicide attack in Suruç seems to have given the Turkish authorities and the Turkish Armed Forces. Turkey has long been angling for a true casus belli to enter the fray in neighbouring Syria. Comparable to the recent provocative suicide bomb was a May-2013 double bomb-attack on the Turkish town of Reyhanlı (known as “little Syria” locally), in the Turkish province of Hatay (an erstwhile Syrian enclave, still disputed by some). There have been voices that have described the Reyhanlı blasts as a false flag operation. At the time, the government was quick to put the blame on the Assad regime in Damascus, while critics of the AKP-led government instead pointed their fingers at the terror group Jabhat al-Nusra, the strongest opposition force at that stage of Syria’s not-so civil war. In 2012, the small Turkish border town of Akçakale was “shelled” from Syrian positions. which at the time also led to a fair amount of sabre-rattling, with words to the effect that the Assad regime was behind the unprovoked attack. And now, more than three years later, another unprovoked and very deadly attack has led the AKP-led government to condemn the IS, led by the self-proclaimed Caliph Ibrahim (aka Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi).
The AKP and the IS
It would stand to reason that the IS targets a Socialist movement willing to aid the enemy in an as-yet contested town, given that the ideas and ideals defended by the Kurds of Kobanê are all but anathema to the strict and severe quasi-Wahhabi ideology Abu Bakr appears to represent. On the other hand, the Turkish government’s close ties to certain Islamist opposition factions is well-known. In the past, Davutoğlu even negotiated a deal with the IS via the intermediaries of Ahrar al-Sham, in turn contacted by Turkish intelligence service, the MİT. At the same time, there are also many who actually accuse the AKP of entertaining certain relations with the Islamic State, arguing that their common enemy of Bashar al-Assad offers a good pretext for maintaining ties that could very well go beyond a mere tactical alliance and instead be based on ideological commonalities.
The Kurdish HDP (or the Peoples’ Democratic Party ) quickly issued a statement following the Suruç suicide attack, imploring its supporters to “constitute a peace block opposed to ISIS [or the IS]. It is the [AKP-led] government that is responsible for any kind of security breach”. The HDP declaration next minces no words: “[t]oday we have witnessed once more what this army of rapists and barbarians that has lost its human dignity is capable of. This is an attempt to break the international solidarity that has sprung up around Kobanê, particularly targeting the anniversary of the Revolution of Rojava and those revolutionaries pertaining to Turkey who had been on the road to Kobanê to express their solidarity. This is a message to our peoples, to those brave persons who have encircled Kobanê in the spirit of revolutionary solidarity [saying] ‘Give up on this solidarity’. All the countries and regimes supplying ISIS [or the IS] and other armies of rapists with support are accessories to this barbarity. The leaders in Ankara who are stroking the head of ISIS [ or the IS, as we speak and who] have even flung threats at the HDP, who remain silent in the face of ISIS [or the IS], [and] who are even afraid to raise their voices, [they] are accomplices to this barbarity”.
In this way, the Kurdish HDP has directly accused the AKP-led government of allowing the massacre to take place, of being in some ways allied to the Caliph and the IS. Another indication of possible collusion or possibly neglectful consent was visible in Istanbul at the end of this year’s month of fasting (16 July 2015). A figure calling himself Ebu Hanzala (or Halis Bayancuk, as he is known officially) convened a public prayer meeting (1436 Ramazan/Bayram Namazı) where he, albeit in a somewhat veiled fashion, called upon his fellow-Turkish believers to join the Jihad across the border amongst the ranks of Caliph Ibrahim and the IS. This figure has gained some notoriety over the years, having been arrested in 2008 and 2011, on account of being the “Al Qaeda Turkey” leader. In January 2014, in the framework of a police operation breaking up IS (or ISIS) sleeper cells in Turkey, his name popped up as the leading figure behind these sleeper cells. At that time, he is reported to have said that “[a]fter we conquer Syria, it will be Turkey’s turn. We will conquer Istanbul, God-willing”. Last year, he also released a video message on YouTube indicating that the AKP-led government was disingenuous in its condemnation of ISIS (now better known as IS).
Was the Suruç suicide bombing a false flag attack?? Will the Turkish Army now enter Syria to fight the IS and the Assad regime?? And how do Prime Minister Ahmed Davutoğlu and President Tayyip Erdoğan really feel about Caliph Ibrahim and the Islamic State that has crept up on Turkey’s southern border??