By Mustafa Akyol
In yesterday’s Hürriyet Daily News, the headline story came from a statement by President Tayyip Erdoğan: “ISIL, PKK, Syria intelligence behind Ankara bombing.” The president had spoken at a gathering of trade unions, touching upon the recent horrible suicide bombing in Ankara that killed more than 100 people.
Apparently, this cruel terrorist attack, the worst in Turkey’s tumultuous history, was not just the work of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), as the non-pro-government press and most of the world perceived it. Rather, it was “a collective terrorist act in which Daesh [ISIL], the PKK [Kurdistan Workers’ Party], the Mukhabarat [Syria’s military intelligence] and the PYD [Democratic Union Party] in northern Syria each played a role.”
Of course, the president of Turkey has far more intelligence than mere mortals like me. So, I give that to Mr. Erdoğan and respect his sources of information. But still I cannot easily make myself believe in this theory of a “collective terrorist act” — or, as Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu called it, “cocktail terrorism.”
Here is why. The three evils listed here — ISIL, PKK/PYD and the al-Assad regime — have nothing but contempt for each other and are actually at war with each other. Northern Syria, in fact, has long been a warzone between ISIL and the PYD, which is commonly seen as an extension of the PKK.
Moreover, the Ankara bombing has the all the rationale of being an ISIL attack on secular, left-wing Kurds, who ISIL perceives as being pro-PKK. The “peace rally” that was hit by two suicide bombers was organized by the pro-Kurdish HDP and other left-wing parties and groups, which cannot be the targets of the PKK at all. To assume that the al-Assad regime, which is in a desperate war for survival, could organize a bomb in the middle of Ankara in order to hit secular, left-wing Turks and Kurds is also preposterous.
Furthermore, the police have figured out and press has informed us that the Ankarabombers were nothing other than ISIL militants. These two youngsters, Yunus Emre Alagöz and Ömer Deniz Dündar, were “educated” by an ISIL branch inside Turkey and even crossed into Syria, into ISIL territory, for training. The father of the latter, Orhan Gönder, even went to the police in 2014 to warn that his son has been brainwashed and he feared that he would go to Syria to join the war. What’s more, the younger brother of the other bomber, Şeyh Abdurrahman Alagöz, was the suicide bomber who killed 33 people in an attack in Suruç in July.
So, why can’t we call a spade a spade — and an ISIL attack an ISIL attack? Well, unless the government has huge intelligence that we don’t know, I would say that it’s simply for propaganda purposes. Putting the PKK and the al-Assad regime into the picture fortifies the government’s propaganda about both the domestic and the international scene: There is a plenitude of devils united against the glorious New Turkey of Erdoğan.
Putting the blame on the PKK (which has its own hall of shame) especially helps, for it helps demonize the HDP, the AKP’s biggest headache, when elections are just days ahead.
Such fact-free propaganda might have short-term benefits for the government. (As a recent poll has shown, 42 percent of AKP voters believe that the PKK was responsible for the Ankara bombing.) But it has long-term damage for the whole of society: Detachment from reality. The result is a more deeply divided society living in alternative realities, which is already the case now. It is already difficult to speak of this society as a “nation,” which requires some minimum level of commonality and understanding to exist.