Socialist Worker

Turkish tragedy was made here

Charlie Kimber examines why the Istanbul bombings happened

Issue No. 1880

THE DEATH toll was appalling. But far from the recent bombings in Turkey discrediting the anti-war movement (as much of the media and the politicians tried to do), they tragically confirmed it was right.

As journalist Robert Fisk wrote, 'It's the price of joining George Bush's 'war on terror'.

'They couldn't hit Britain while George Bush was on his triumphalist state visit to London, so they went for the jugular in Turkey. The British consulate, the British-headquartered HSBC bank. London-abroad.'

Foreign secretary Jack Straw claims the attacks have nothing to do with the war on Iraq.

If he was honest, he'd admit it was to do with equally murderous intervention by the US and its allies over many decades.

The men who took part in the bombings in Istanbul were not 'mindless terrorists' or 'crazed religious fanatics'.

Their lives were shaped by the harsh poverty they suffered, the deep bitterness against the US and the policy of the Turkish state.

Journalists from the Guardian and the Financial Times visited Bingol in south eastern Turkey last week. They discovered that from childhood the bombers and their families had faced repression and humiliation.

First they were put down by the Turkish state for being Kurds.

They were denied their culture, their language and the right to raise demands for their national freedom.

Then, at a later stage, they were oppressed for being Islamists.

Azad, the man who drove a truckload of explosives into the British consulate, was two when he saw his father shot dead by anti-Kurdish Turkish nationalists.

'He was a good man who led a workers' union at Bingol's town hall, but Turkish nationalists shot him because he was a prominent member of the PKK [the outlawed Kurdish rebel group],' said Ridvan Kizgin, who heads the local Turkish Human Rights Foundation.

'I think his death played a role in making Azad the sort of person he became.'

The Guardian's Helena Smith spoke to a former journalist who said, 'When you have no work and no hope of a job you get angry, and then you look elsewhere for things to do. A lot of young people here are so desperate they become nihilists. The only thing Bingol offers them is heroin smuggling from Iran. With nothing to lose, they become open to the spirit of Al Qaida.'

In another spectacular example of what has been called 'blowback', it was the Turkish state which helped to nourish Hizbollah, the organisation which may have included those behind the Istanbul bombings.

For more than two decades Hizbollah (which is not related to other organisations with a similar name in the region) received weapons and money from the Turkish security forces.

It was used to help crush the Kurdish PKK, which was fighting for democratic rights and an independent Kurdish state.

'Turkish Hizbollah became a practitioner of state-sponsored terrorism,' said a senior Western diplomat. Its stronghold was in the town of Batman, near to Bingol.

'They were tolerated on the basis that the enemy of my enemy is my friend,' said Ersin Kalaycioglu, a political scientist at Istanbul's Sabachi University. 'But when Hizbollah stopped being of use to the government it clamped down on them with a vengeance.'

By 1998, with the Kurdish movement ready to declare a unilateral ceasefire, the government ordered the army to crush Hizbollah. Arrests and killings followed, and some followers fled to join Al Qaida.

However, after the recent bombings there have been questions about whether sections of the Turkish military might still be manipulating parts of the Hizbollah network to their own ends.

Turkey's generals have used the bombings to call for a 'strong' response to 'terror'.

Every day that the bloody occupation of Iraq continues guarantees that there will be more bombings against British, Israeli and US targets.

And one of the horrendous results of Western policy over the last hundred years is that it has sometimes made Jews the objects of attack.

Two synagogues in Istanbul were bombed days before the British targets.

Yet for centuries there was never any large-scale anti-Semitism in the region, far less than in Europe for example.

For hundreds of years Turkey was a refuge for Jews driven from 'civilised' Christian Europe.

In 1492 the Turkish Sultan Beyazit II welcomed more than 100,000 Jews fleeing the Spanish Inquisition.

Jews were allowed to live freely in the country, and those fleeing pogroms in Eastern Europe and the Nazi terror were also able to take up residence.

It was only with the growth of the Zionist colonisation of Palestine, the oppression of the Palestinians and the constant insistence by Zionists that Israel was 'the Jewish state' that Jews have become targets.

When Bush flew into Baghdad last week he pledged that US forces were not going 'to retreat before a bunch of thugs and assassins'.

In truth the thugs and assassins are in the White House and 10 Downing Street.


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Sat 6 Dec 2003, 00:00 GMT
Issue No. 1880
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