The toll of the brutal terrorist attack on Istanbul Ataturk Airport is alarming and not only because of the high number of victims. There is much speculation as to how the terrorists with explosive belts and guns were able to slip past security at the international terminal of Turkey’s largest airport. It is no longer a question of whether the ugly face of terrorism will appear in Turkey, but when it will happen again.
Momentum for the enemies of democracy
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s recent attempts to take the bull by the horns have come too late. The foreign policy maneuvers being made in an attempt to mend broken relations with Russia and Israel are significant because both countries have a wealth of intelligence information and analyses that can anticipate the direction in which terrorism is evolving and what regions and countries are particularly under threat. Whether actions against terrorism are sufficient and effective measures are possible is another matter.
Not only Russia and Israel, but also the US and European allies have long been witnessing how Turkey has developed into a hub of supposedly religiously driven henchmen working for the patrons of terrorism. And people are paying the price for Erdogan’s political misjudgment with their lives, while Turkey has been burdened with economic setbacks that have set the country back decades.
By not recognizing the results of parliamentary elections, rejecting the country’s constitutional court as “not worthy of respect” and ending the reconciliation policy with the Kurds, Erdogan has given the enemies of democracy momentum.
The submissively applauded speeches in which Erdogan relentlessly promises his people better and safer times can, at best, blind the trusting supporters and beneficiaries of the system. The critical observers of the country, unlike journalists and scientists who subscribe to Erdogan’s convictions, can expect to be charged with criminal offenses and given prison sentences, instead of the president’s recognition. It’s simple: Anyone who undermines a democratic constitutional state, restricts freedom of the press and speech, and harmonizes essential state structures such as the police and judiciary, paves the way to terrorism.
Polarization must be stopped
The Turkish Republic, which will be celebrating its 100th anniversary in 2023, originally wanted to develop along the lines of contemporary, western civilization. What has happened instead after 14 years under Erdogan’s rule threatens to become a cesspool of war and terrorism, like all the crisis regions in the Middle East.
Erdogan would be well advised to respond with less hostility to his critics, starting now, and instead, to go along with the advocates of European values. This will not necessarily reduce the risk of new terrorist attacks like everywhere else in the world; however, a closer alliance with Europe would at least offer the hope of having a positive influence on the mood in Turkey – and moving away from the fruitless and disastrous polarization of the people.