Did Turkish Security Forces Know About Deadly Ankara Attack? (1/2)

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Baris Karaagac says Turkey created an environment that has facilitated such acts by ISIS or other terrorist groups within Turkey during the last few years

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Story Transcript

SHARMINI PERIES, EXEC. PRODUCER, TRNN: Welcome to the Real News Network. I’m Sharmini Peries coming to you from Baltimore.

On Saturday twin bombings targeted a peace rally in Ankara, Turkey, killing nearly 128 people, and injuring about 500 people. Activists participating in the rally were calling for peace between the Turkish state and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, also known as PKK. Thousands of the mourners braved the attack by gathering the very next day Sunday in central Ankara to rally against the Turkish government, but were met with government forces and tear gas. Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu has blamed the attack on the Islamic State, but others, including the leaders of the Kurdish sympathetic opposition party, HDP, are claiming that the attack was in fact carried out by the Turkish state in an attempt to influence the November 1 elections.

Selahattin Demirtas, leader of the HDP, responded to the Prime Minister Davutoglu’s claim that it was the Islamic State, calling him a liar. Let’s have a look.

[Video of Selahattin Demirtas]

PERIES: Now joining us from Toronto to talk about this development is Baris Karaagac. He’s a lecturer in international development studies at Trent University in Canada. He’s also the editor of the book Accumulations, Crises, Struggles: Capital and Labor in Contemporary Capitalism. Baris, thank you so much for joining us today.

BARIS KARAAGAC: Thanks for having me, Sharmini.

PERIES: Baris, it seems to be complete mayhem in Turkey. Do you know who is responsible for the attack?

KARAAGAC: We do not know who is responsible. We can only speculate. Davutoglu, the interim prime minister, has said that it is ISIS, or it could be ISIS. Says there’s some evidence. But we still do not know who’s behind this horrible bombing.

However, I need to underline, emphasize one important issue. This is, these two bombs exploded in an area which is about one kilometer away from the national headquarters of the Turkish police, three kilometers away from Turkish intelligence, the headquarters of the Turkish intelligence, and about four kilometers away from the National Assembly. And there’s a saying in Turkey that there will be–no bird will be able to fly without the intelligence of the state in Ankara. So it is quite unlikely that the Turkish state, the Turkish government, did not know about such a plan. Many people have argued that intentionally the Turkish state did not do anything to prevent it from happening.

PERIES: And Baris, let me cut in a clip here of the opposition party member of HDP saying what you just said in terms of their disbelief that the security forces could not have known about this attack.

[Video of Selahattin Demirtas]

PERIES: All right, Baris. So why would the state be attacking and bombing its own people?

KARAAGAC: Well, I think it’s a continuation of the same story. The main reason behind this violence, the escalation of this violence, and a significant shift in the discoursive space, particularly on the part of the government in Turkey is that the government, Davutoglu, above all Recep Tayyip Erdogan, president of the republic, have been doing their best to push the HDP, the pro-Kurdish party, under the 10 percent electoral threshold, which would give them the majority in the parliament and which in turn would enable the AKP, future AKP government to change the constitution that would give more powers to President Erdogan. I think this is the main reason.

PERIES: And Baris, now every single media report we have seen starts with Erdogan and the Turkish government indicating that these are allies of the United States in the region. If that is in fact the case, Erdogan’s here, if he’s responsible, if the state is responsible, and really interfering the democratic process here in terms of the upcoming elections. What should the Americans be saying or doing in this case?

KARAAGAC: Well, they should be siding with the victims. That’s, that’s just plain morality, ethics. But what President Obama did after the attacks is that he did not call [inaud.] or the other co-chair of the pro-Kurdish HDP. He called Erdogan, and he said that the United States is on the side of Turkey against any acts of terrorism. Here we are talking about possible state terrorism against the civilians, against the citizens of Turkey, and on the other side the president of the United States, most powerful nation in the world, is calling the culprits. There’s a significant hypocrisy and a contradiction.

PERIES: Now, Turkey is also a member of NATO and the tension is high in the region. One of the things that everyone, as far as the state of Turkey and the U.S. is saying is that they think IS is responsible for this attack. Why would we think otherwise?

KARAAGAC: Well, it could be ISIS, or it could be an ultra-nationalist terrorist from Turkey. We do not know. But the point is that the Turkish state could have prevented this from happening. Secondly, the Turkish state is still responsible, because the state itself, above all the government, created an environment that is conducive or that facilitated such acts by ISIS or other terrorist groups within Turkey in the last few years.

But the Turkish state, the Turkish government has not taken any responsibility for any of these acts. There have been many attacks against civilians in the past two, three years. And the culprit, the people who were behind these attacks have not been found, or they have not been taken to court. And no minister from the government has resigned. That is very, very interesting. And after the bombings, the explosions, there was a press conference with three ministers. And one of the journalists asked if any of the ministers were willing to resign. One of the ministers responded with a smile. More than 100 people have been killed, 500 people have been injured and some of them will definitely die, unfortunately, and the minister appears before the cameras with a smile, with a grin on his face. And no one has assumed any responsibility. And Davutoglu on top of this, and other government officials, have blamed the victims.

PERIES: Baris, you actually had some friends in the rally. Give us a sense of what type of people they are and what their goals, objectives are for Turkey here.

KARAAGAC: This rally actually was organized by a number of civil society organizations, including labor unions and political parties in Turkey. So thousands of people were there to attend the rally. And some of the people that I know were there. None of the people that I know got injured or lost their lives. But hundreds of people got hurt. And many people, a significant part of the nation, is mourning for these people now. And they want to, they want the state to find out who was behind these attacks.

But I doubt that. I doubt that the government will find the culprits, the people who are guilty. Because this serves, actually, such an environment of violence. Escalation of violence. Serves the goals of the current government, the AKP, and President Erdogan. With increasing polarization and escalation of violence, they can, they are planning to mobilize the nationalist vote so that the HDP will become ineffective or will be below the electoral threshold, so they can realize their goals and hold on to power.

PERIES: Baris Karaagac, let’s talk about the upcoming elections and all the players and how this will all play out in the upcoming elections in our next segment. Thanks for joining us, Baris.

KARAAGAC: Thanks for having me.

PERIES: And thank you for joining us on the Real News Network.

End

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