Turkey has not been so shaken in years as it was on Sunday. A bomb has exploded in the middle of Istiklal Street, a busy shopping street in central Istanbul. At least six people were killed and 81 others injured.
The bomb attack is reminiscent of past attacks, the images from 2015 and 2016 are still fresh in the collective memory of Turks. At that time, several bomb attacks were carried out in Turkey, killing a total of 862 people within 146 days – and that in the middle of two parliamentary elections and an attempted military coup.
Looking at the polls, the ruling AKP under President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was able to take advantage of the situation at the time – and win back a majority it had just lost.
The fact that there has now been another bomb attack – around seven months before the next election – fuels speculation.
Hundreds of Turkish flags were hung on Istiklal Street on Monday to symbolize unity against terror. But Turkish society is deeply divided, and Erdoğan could struggle in the Turkish elections on June 18, 2023.
In a survey by the Turkish opinion research institute Yöneylem, 58 percent of all respondents stated that they “definitely did not” want to vote for him in the election.
But not only the attack itself, but also how it was dealt with shocked people. The Turkish broadcasting supervisory authority RTük had imposed a news ban on Sunday afternoon.
You want to avoid fear and panic. Turkish broadcasters then stopped reporting on the explosion. Social media such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter only worked to a limited extent at times.
In an interview with Deutsche Welle, experts warn of a similar scenario on election night in around seven months. “On election night, according to the instructions of the election commission, access to all social media channels could be restricted.
The internet throughout Turkey could even be banned,” criticizes Faruk Çayır, a lawyer and representative of the Association for Alternative Information Technologies. There is no law that could clearly prevent this.
Communications consultant Mehmet Şafak Sarı fears significant consequences. “When you restrict the social media networks that people use for communication and information purposes, you’re actually pushing people into unbelievable fear and panic,” Sarı told DW.
He warns that something similar could happen on election night: “People say, ‘If I can’t have social media, something bad has happened.’ Imagine that on election night we experience the six to seven hour panic that we have now experienced.”
The suspected assassin has now been arrested and the pictures of the arrest have been shared on the official social media channels. In addition, more than 40 other people are said to be in police custody on suspicion of complicity.
The alleged assassin is said to have entered Turkey illegally from the Syrian city of Afrin and carried out the attack on behalf of the YPG, which controls areas in northern Syria. The woman is said to have confessed to the Turkish authorities that she was trained by the PKK. The PKK, meanwhile, said it had nothing to do with the attack.
Turkey regards the YPG as the Syrian branch of the PKK, the Kurdish Workers’ Party, which is classified as a terrorist organization in the EU and the US. Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu again accused Washington of supporting “terrorist organizations”. The attack was carried out by the PKK and the PKK is supported by the USA.
“We decline the condolence message from the American embassy,” Soylu said. One must discuss whether a state whose Senate sends money to Kobane is a good ally. Kobane became internationally known when the YPG defended the city against IS.
Turkey has long been frustrated that the US is working with Kurdish militias in Syria in the fight against IS. With the alleged support for the YPG, for example, Ankara also justified the veto for the northern expansion of NATO to include Sweden and Finland.
The Turkish public is also discussing the fact that the bomb attack could serve as a reason for a previously announced Turkish military operation in Syria. Even before the investigation was completed, Turkish officials had called for a new military operation in northern Syria, says Berkay Mandirici of the International Crisis Group.
A few months ago, President Erdogan repeatedly said that Turkey “could come suddenly one night”. He has also stressed that his government wants to “address” his country’s security concerns with new operations.
The November 13 attack could also have economic repercussions – if frightened tourists stay away, just like a few years ago. Turkey is currently in a deep economic crisis.
According to official figures, the annual inflation rate is over 85 percent – and that could be embellished. ENAG, the so-called Group for Independent Inflation Research, believes that the real inflation rate is over 185 percent.
Mitarbeit: Burcu Karakaş
Autor: Burak Unveren
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The original of this post “After the bomb attack in Turkey, the government is under criticism” comes from Deutsche Welle.