In what is being called the worst terrorist attack in Turkey's history, two suicide blasts went off amid a peace rally in Ankara Oct. 10, killing some 100 and injuring more than tiwce as many. The rally was called by leftist groups that support the pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) to demand an end to fighting between government forces and Kurdish rebels in the country's east. The rally brought together both Kurds and ethnic Turks. Witnesses told the BBC that police fired tear-gas on the shocked survivors "as soon as the bomb went off," and "would not let ambulances through." President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called the blast a "loathsome" act of terrorism. But HDP leader Selahettin Demirtas blamed the Turkish state for the attack and condemned the government as "murderers" with blood on their hands.
This was certainly the prespective of Kurdish and Turkish ex-pats and immigrants—mostly HDP supporters—who gathered in New York City's Union Square to condemn the attack. A big black banner held by protesters showed the Kurdish phrase "DISA JI ASITI," the Turkish "INADINA BARIS," and the English: "DESPITE EVERYTHING, PEACE." One sign read: "Katilleri taniyoruz," or "We know the murderers." In case there was any ambiguity, other signs read: "Turkish gov bombed its own poeple today" and "AKP-Turkish government is responsible." The AKP is Erdogan's ruling Justice and Development Party. (See photos at Slant News)
One rally organizer, Ayse of the HDP Foreign Affairs Commission, told this reporter: "We don't care if it was ISIS or the Turkish secret police. It was Erdogan and the AKP. They are all working together."
The blast comes amid what the HDP calls a "political genocide" in Turkey, that has included both military attacks on Kurdish towns and villages and a wave of mob attacks on HDP offices across the country. Gains for the HDP in the June parliamentary elections came despite a similar wave of attacks on the party's offices. Erdogan is now hoping to call new elections and reverse those gains. The Ankara blast recalls a July suicide bomb attack in the southern Turkish town of Suruc that killed at least 30, targeting a youth activist meeting. The meeting had been called to organize solidarity with the reconstruction of the neighboring town of Kobani across the Syrian border, where Kurdish forces waged a desperate campaign to break an ISIS siege. They were ultimately successful, with the aid of US air-strikes.
Erdogan clearly feels threatened by US aid to the Syrian Kurds, fearing that a Kurdish autonmous zone on his southern flank will inspire Kurds within Turkey. His propaganda has been cynically labelling the anti-ISIS Syrian Kurds as "terrorists"—even as he is accused of conniving with ISIS, allowing the jihadists to use Turkish territory as a staging area. With outrageous chutzpah, he continues this game even now, suggesting that the Ankara blast could be the work of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), the rebel group in the east. As EFE news agency informs us, Erdogan said: "We cannot distinguish between acts of terror against innocent citizens, functionaries, police and soldiers." This is obviously a reference to PKK guerilla attacks, and obfuscates the distinction between terrorism (targeting random civilians) and guerilla activity (targeting military forces in the context of harsh repression and war).
Demirtas and the HDP have been calling on the PKK to instate a ceasefire. As those who have condemned Erdogan's repression and put themselves at risk for peace, they have earned the right to do so.