By Emre Uslu
September 18, 2015
Fourteen civil society groups, trade and labor unions and guild organizations representing different segments of society made a general call and asked people to participate in a joint march against terrorism on Sept. 17 at Ankara Sıhhiye Square.
TOBB Chair Rifat Hisarcıklıoğlu, who made the joint call, said: “We call our people and civil society to condemn terrorism and express support for our brotherhood. We say no to terrorism and yes to brotherhood. We urge all people to join this reunion.” HAK-İŞ, Memur-Sen, MÜSİAD, T. KAMU-SEN, TBB (BAROLAR BİRLİĞİ), TEMAD, TESK, TİSK, TOBB, Türk-İş, TÜRKONFED, TÜRMOB, TÜSİAD and TZOB supported the initiative.
Thousands of people took to the streets in protest of terrorism in Ankara; they spoke out against terrorism. We could call this protest the first mass reaction to terrorism in Turkey. As an academic who works on security and politics in Turkey, I should note that the rally and its timing are interesting. If 100,000 people had taken to the streets in Taksim before, the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) would not have staged such violent attacks. I also previously noted that people should take to the streets in protest of PKK terrorism. However, the purpose of the initiative by TOBB remains vague. It appears that this was a pro-state initiative. It even seemed to me that that was an initiative started to offer a political propaganda platform for the political administration. After TOBB's rally, a group that is close to the Justice and Development Party (AKP) will hold a similar rally against terrorism in İstanbul with the participation of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu and the parliament speaker. Obviously, the goal is not to protest terrorism. This is a platform to initiate the election propaganda of Erdoğan and the AKP.
Unfortunately, it seems that they are wasting the hope for the mobilization of a social reaction against terrorism to offer a platform for the AKP. They previously wasted the notions of peace and settlement to ensure that the AKP wins elections. They threw out these notions after the elections. Nobody will be able to use these terms now. The last move is to mobilize a social reaction. And they are transforming this into the AKP's election propaganda.
What did the TOBB protest achieve?
Did the TOBB's protest produce the outcome that was initially expected? Did it raise social awareness? Why has it failed to mobilize the masses? Mainstream media also supported the protests against terrorism, held under the auspices of the TOBB. Despite this, the initiative did not attract much attention.
The TOBB's protest was not even discussed on Twitter, society's most dynamic venue. Did the TOBB protest send the message that everyone in Turkey wants peace? The answer to these questions is no. The TOBB initiative was a total failure. It failed to raise public awareness; and it failed to address the concerns of the people.
Even the LGBT community's Pride Parade attracted greater attention and a larger audience. Why? Because people realized that that initiative was not a natural one. They noticed that it was organized by the state. This is why such initiatives have almost no impact upon terrorism. They may even have negative repercussions.
Terrorist organizations escalate violence if they notice that society is indifferent to terrorism. Let me ask this: If the HDP had held a peace march in Diyarbakır and called for the resumption of talks, it would have gathered a larger audience than the TOBB did and would have sent clearer and stronger messages. The only positive outcome of the initiative could be that assaults against innocent Kurds would decline.
In sum, the TOBB march and initiative was a failure and an insignificant move.