On Sunday night, two consecutive explosions in the Güngören district of Istanbul — a poor, crowded, conservative slum near the Atatürk International Airport — killed 17 people, among them five children. The death toll may yet rise. Some 150 more were injured and maimed. It is still unclear who placed the bombs. No one has claimed responsibility. But the terrorist Kurdish organization — the PKK — is the chief suspect.
Recent intelligence reports, apparently, have indicated that the PKK has been planning a summer terror offensive in Turkish cities. The timing of the attack is also suggestive; it took place a day after Turkish air strikes against PKK camps in the Qandil mountains of northern Iraq. The method is characteristic of the PKK, which has a long history of placing fragmentation bombs made of RDX in Turkish garbage bins. PKK spokesmen have denied any involvement, but of course they would. The PKK does its fundraising among the usual useful European idiots; it’s not good for business to just come out and say that yes, you’re using that money to murder children.
Turkey is predictably awash with rumors and theories about the authorship of the attack, and the theory embraced by any given Turk tends to reflect his position along the country’s increasing polarized political fault lines. The bombing took place on the eve of the opening of a court case to ban the ruling AKP party, which Turkey’s chief prosecutor charges with anti-secular activities. It also took place precisely as the indictment of the so-called Ergenekon gang was made public. Many prominent journalists and military officers have recently been arrested in pre-dawn raids and questioned in connection with the alleged Ergenekon plot; the 2,500-page indictment claims that the Ergenekon gang, supposedly an ultra-nationalist terrorist organization, has been scheming to foment unrest in Turkey by unleashing a systematic campaign of bombings, violence and mayhem. Prosecutors charge that Ergenekon planned, among other heinous crimes, to assassinate the novelist Orhan Pamuk. The unrest unleashed by Ergenekon was, allegedly, to be used as an excuse to topple the AKP.
Given the timing of the bombing, the theories mooted on the street about its authorship are predictable: The AKP’s supporters speculate that Ergenekon was behind it. Those against the AKP respond that Ergenekon doesn’t even exist; the arrests and the indictment are, they say, a conspiracy to distract public attention from the prosecutors’ attempts to shut down the AKP. The government’s enemies wonder if the AKP or its supporters were behind the bombing; after all, a bomb linked to Ergenekon, they speculate, would convince the public to take the case against Ergenekon seriously and rally behind the AKP.
When I asked people whom they believed had planted the bombs, I heard — as I always do, in Turkey — “who benefits from it?”
No one benefits from it. I don’t know and can’t know who did this, but if I had to place a bet, I would place it with little hesitation on the PKK. They, after all, have the proven track record. No one doubts that they exist. No one doubts that they have an unusually robust appetite for killing women and children.
Thus I was astonished to read, in a Reuters’ report on the bombing, reproduced yesterday in the Washington Post without comment or challenge, that “The PKK usually does not target civilians.”
This is an unfathomable statement.
These words, from the PKK 1994 national conference, were not a misprint: “All economic, political, military, social and cultural organizations, institutions, formations-and those who serve in them-have become targets. The entire country has become a battlefield.”