By YASIN KAYA
At least 106 peace activists were killed and over 400 wounded on Oct. 10 in twin explosions near the central train station in Ankara, Turkey, as tens of thousands gathered for the “Labour, Peace and Democracy Rally.” Several labour unions and mass organizations convened the event to urge an end to the violence between the Turkish state and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
Among the victims were members of the People’s Democratic Party (HDP), political party of the Kurdish nationalist movement, the Republic People’s Party (the main opposition), as well as socialist parties such as the People’s Houses, the Party of Labour, and the Socialist Party of Refoundation.
The Turkish government failed to provide security measures prior to the rally. Police were absent when the bombs exploded. But right after the blasts, the police raced to the scene, only to fire tear gas at the crowd, including the dead and the dying.
The ruling Justice and Development Party did not only fail to take safety precautions; it was complicit in the blasts. The government turned a blind eye to the growing presence of ISIS, which allegedly carried out this attack. As People’s Democratic Party co-chair Selahattin Demirtas told CNN International, ISIS suicide bombers cannot conduct such attacks without support from “elements within the state.”
And as Arzu Cerkezoglu, the general-secretary of the Confederation of Progressive Trade Unions (DİSK), stated, the issue is not only about “who detonated the bomb but those who are politically responsible: The president, the prime minister, [Ankara’s] mayor, and the police chief.”
This was only one of several recent attacks on democratic forces in Turkey. Explosions hit HDP’s final election rally in Diyarbakir just two days before the June 7 elections. Despite this, the HDP managed to pass the threshold of 10% of the total votes—required to take seats in parliament. That made it impossible for the AKP to reach a super-majority, and scuttled its dreams to change the country’s parliamentary system into a presidential system that could give Recep Tayyip Erdogan (founder of the AKP) more executive powers.
Despite the government’s best efforts, the HDP had electoral success, while the AKP could not get enough seats to form a single-party government. But optimism among the progressive forces waned when 33 Kurdish and Turkish activists were killed in July in the Turkish border town of Suruç. A suicide attack targeted university students who were planning to show their solidarity with the Rojava (Kurds in Syria) people, especially with those who fought against ISIL (the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, also known as ISIS), to maintain local control of the region, and build a grassroots democracy based on local popular assemblies.
The government framed the bombings as an act of “terrorism.” It declared ISIL responsible, but also attacked Kurdish forces by ending the ceasefire and suspending the peace negotiations with the PKK. It declared a state of siege in different parts of the Kurdish region, and violently attacked civilians in Cizre (Sirnak), Nusaybin (Mardin), and Sur (Diyarbakir).
One of the perpetrators of the Ankara blasts was identified as Yunus Emre Alagöz, the younger brother of Abdurrahman Alagöz, who was responsible for the Suruç bombing. Many reports suggest both Yunus and a second suspect, Ömer Deniz Dündar, are linked to ISIL. And according to the daily Hürriyet, the names of the two suicide bombers have been circulating for months as potential threats; the police were informed that precisely such an attack was being planned.
Despite these strong links, the Turkish government tried to manipulate public opinion by blaming the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, the armed wing of the Kurdish movement, for the blasts.
Amid these circumstances, Turkey’s voters went to the polls on Nov. 1 for the snap election that was called after coalition negotiations between the AKP and the bourgeois opposition parties broke down. The AKP managed to win 49.5% of the vote and a comfortable majority of seats in parliament, while the HDP, which had to scale down its electoral campaign after the massacre, lost votes.
Beyond the electoral process, however, hope is linked to signs of growing solidarity between the Kurdish and Turkish peoples, along with a revitalization of the working class as a strong political actor.
Photo: Amateur photo shows moment that one of the bombs exploded.