On October 10, two bombs went off outside the central railway station in Ankara, Turkey, while a rally protesting the armed forces’ attacks on the Kurdish Workers Party (PKK) was underway. One hundred and five people were killed and more than 400 injured, making this the most deadly terror attack in Turkey’s recent history.
On Monday, Turkey’s Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said that the Islamic State (Isis) was the prime suspect, though it is yet to claim responsibility for the attack. The Saturday bombings highlight two major concerns: The reach of the Isis in Turkey and the fragile nature of the Turkish-Kurdish peace.
For a long time now Ankara has been accused of turning a blind eye to the free flow of weapons and foreign fighters into Syria and Iraq — allegations it has denied. Turkey joined the US-led coalition against the Isis only in the last week of August and since then has been targeting Kurdish forces that have been instrumental in pushing back the Isis from many places, including Tel Abyad, a town on the Turkey-Syria border. Ever since the July 20 bombing at Suruç, where 33 activists were killed, Turkey’s army has been fighting both the Isis and the PKK. This brought an end to the ceasefire that has been in place since 2012 and disrupted the Kurdish-Turkish Peace Process. In this regard, the actions of an authoritarian President Recep Tayyip Erdogan have increased the rift between pro-Kurdish voices and Turkish nationalist groups.
The attack comes ahead of Turkey’s second election to the Grand National Assembly in five months. Adding to this, Turkey’s economy is not in the pink of health. Reports released in July by the Central Bank of the Republic of Turkey show that the total debt it has to repay in the next one year is a staggering $170 billion. Turkey’s well-wishers hope that Mr Erdogan will stop the nationalist forces from further dividing the country, help the government focus on reviving the economy, wholeheartedly back the US-led coalition’s efforts to defeat the Isis, and play the role of an elder statesman to ensure that the November 1 polls bring political stability to Turkey.