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Reuters Whitewashes Terrorism in Turkey

Turks know that the group suspected in Sunday's bloody Istanbul bombing regularly targets civilians — Reuters doesn't.

by
Claire Berlinski

Bio

July 29, 2008 - 1:10 am

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.”

The PKK has bombed cafes and restaurants in Izmir and Istanbul. They have bombed crowded buses. Recently, they took hostage a group of German tourists on Mount Ararat. They kill journalists, elementary school teachers and doctors with special enthusiasm. To briefly review: Amnesty International reported, shortly after the PKK issued the statement reproduced above, that the PKK was killing civilians “almost every day.” In 2002, PKK bombs in Istanbul and the resort cities of Antalya and Marmaris killed three civilians and wounded more than 100. In 2006, ten people, mostly children (civilian children, I assume), were killed by a PKK bomb in Diyarbakır. In the same summer, PKK bombs targeted a bank and an office building in Adana; a PKK bomb went off near a school in Istanbul; three separate attacks in Marmaris targeted tourists on their summer vacations; another one in Antalya targeted at a shopping center. In 2007, a PKK ambush in Sirnak killed a child, seven village guards and five construction workers who were trying to build a dam to bring water to Kurdish villages.

The PKK has branched out into suicide bombings. They have planted land mines in areas frequented by civilians, which, as intended, killed civilians. Just last week, the PKK shot dead four civilians and wounded seven more in Bingöl, a village in eastern Turkey. When the PKK target (civilian) government officials, they tend to execute their wives and children-civilians-as well. I could extend this list for quite a few paragraphs.

So why would Reuters write such a thing? It is exactly as stupid–or as wicked–as writing that al Qaeda, Hamas, or Hezbollah do not target civilians. Does the assertion reflect an ignorance verging on journalistic malpractice? Or is Reuters deliberately propagandizing for one of the world’s most disgusting terrorist groups? If so, why? The PKK are unqualified scum. What motivation could Reuters possibly have to minimize this? The PKK claims to wish to create an independent, communist, ethnically-pure Kurdish state in Turkey, and when Turks read this sort of thing in Reuters, many wonder if there is something in this vision that Western journalists find sympathetic. I cannot say that I blame them for wondering.

Güngören is nowhere near my apartment, but it is in the vicinity of the home of one of my friends. He was in my apartment when the bombs went off. We had been laughing all evening, looking out over my balcony, talking about what a beautiful summer it had been and how good it was to be alive. Neither of us were watching the news. If he hadn’t been here, he could, I suppose, have been there, although the odds would have been very much against it; there was no reason for him to be in Güngören, and it’s not really a place you’d go to if you haven’t any special reason to be there. But the whole point of such an attack is to tell the world that it is safe nowhere. It could have been Güngören, it could have been his neighborhood; it could have been mine. We were lucky; the victims weren’t. “I survived two bombings in Istanbul with sheer luck,” he wrote to me yesterday morning, “just changed my mind and five minutes later, boom.”

If it was the PKK that placed those bombs, they were intended to kill civilians, like him and like me. They have done it before, and they will do it again.

How is it possible that Reuters does not know this? If they know it, why would they say it is not so?

Claire Berlinski lives in Istanbul. She is the author of two spy novels, Loose Lips and Lion Eyes, and the non-fiction Menace in Europe and There is No Alternative: Why Margaret Thatcher Matters.
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