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The Causes of Terrorism in Turkey 11/27/2003
The Causes of Terrorism in Turkey
Are Repression and Anti-Semitism

By Harut Sassounian
Publisher, The California Courier
The horrible terrorist attacks in Istanbul, causing the deaths of more than
50 innocent individuals and the wounding of about 750, have deeply shaken
the Turkish public. Regrettably, the leaders of Turkey and their western
supporters do not seem to have learned much from this massive tragedy.
Intentionally or otherwise, these leaders are making the following two
misjudgments: The bombings are the work of international Islamic terrorists
(Al-Qaida); and Turkey should strengthen its ties with the West and Israel.
There is a problem with both of these statements. Unless the leaders of
Turkey and their supporters draw the right conclusions from these terrorist
attacks, they will not only be unable to take the proper steps to deal with
this serious problem, but will open the door for more acts of terrorism.
First of all, to deflect the blame away from them, the Turkish leaders have
adamantly clung to the false notion that these terrorist acts were organized
by Al-Qaida, even after finding out that the suicide bombers were native
Turks. According to the Israeli analyst Zvi Bar'el (Ha'aretz, Nov. 21,
2003), Turkey has an extensive "local terror infrastructure" and therefore,
it "does not 'need' the importation of Islamic groups from the outside; it
has more than enough of its own." Bar'el states that "some 17 organizations,
defined by Ankara as terrorist groups, have operated in Turkey since the
Furthermore, the Turkish government actively supported some of these
terrorist groups in order to pit one against the other. The Turkish secret
services supported for years a domestic terror group by the name of Turkish
Hezbollah (not linked to Hezbollah in Lebanon) in order to wage war against
the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), as a result of which more than 700 people
were killed. To make matters worse, when the Islamist government of Recep
Tayyip Erdogan came to power, it released "hundreds of Islamic militants
from prison," including 130 members of Hezbollah, according to the Los
Angeles Times (Nov. 20, 2003).
The cause of terrorism in Turkey is not Al-Qaida, but the violation of the
most basic rights of the Turkish people. As a result, the Turks not only
resent their own government, but also the leaders of the United States and
Israel for pressuring their country into taking unpopular foreign policy
Over the years, there have been countless surveys and studies showing that
the overwhelming majority of the Turkish public strongly disagrees with
America's as well as Israel's position on the Middle East in general (the
latest example being the war in Iraq) and the Arab-Israeli conflict in
particular. Yet, the Turkish leaders, going against the wishes of their own
public, have regularly sided with the United States and Israel. One of the
main reasons for the repeated terrorist attacks against Jewish targets in
Istanbul (Neve Shalom, the city's largest synagogue has been attacked three
times in recent years) is the prevalence of anti-Semitism in Turkey.
According to a commentary by Turkish writer Defne Sandalci, published in the
Nov. 18 issue of the Turkish Daily News, "anti-Semitism...settled
comfortably in the middle of fundamentalist Islamic discourse, propaganda
and action in really scary and heedlessly genocidal tones.... And
Turkey...has its share of anti-Semitism.... Every Friday in Beyazit [Mosque]
after prayers, an Israeli flag goes up in flames.... The same [thing] of
course happens during most leftist demonstrations." The writer brings up the
example of a Turkish teacher who denies the Holocaust in class and tells his
foreign students, "It is a made up story and you Westerners buy it."
Sandalci then adds: "Of course I am used to the denial attitude and the lack
of critical approach to the facts of our own history in this country
[probably referring to the Turkish denial of the Armenian Genocide]. But
this 'sensitivity' toward Holocaust-denial is somewhat striking! In a
private university in Istanbul during a math class, the professor says,
[French mathematician Henri] Poincare discovered the laws of relativity way
before Einstein, but of course as Einstein was a Jew, he was chosen to be
the hero!"
Turkey is a fertile soil for domestic, not foreign, terrorism. Angry young
men and women are driven to terrorism due to repression, censorship,
torture, corruption, and many other violations of their most basic civil
rights. Unless an accurate assessment is made of the factors leading to
terrorism, these horrendous attacks are likely to continue. By taking
repressive measures, the Turkish government is facilitating the recruitment
of even more terrorists rather than fighting terrorism!
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