On October 10, 97 peace activists were killed and over 400 were wounded in twin explosions near the Ankara central train station as tens of thousands gathered for the “Labour, Peace and Democracy Rally”. Several labour unions and mass organizations convened the event to urge an end to the violence between the Turkish state and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
Among the victims were members of the People’s Democractic Party, political party of the Kurdish nationalist movement, the Republic People’s Party (the main opposition), as well as socialist parties such as the People’s Houses, the Party of Labour, and the Socialist Party of Refoundation.
The Turkish government failed to provide security measures prior to the rally. Police were absent when the bombs exploded. But right after the blasts, the police raced to the scene, only to fire teas gas at the crowd, including the dead and the dying.
The ruling Justice and Development Party did not only fail to take safety precautions. It was complicit in the blasts. The government turned a blind eye to the growing presence of ISIS, which allegedly carried out this attack. As the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) co-chair Selahattin Demirtas told CNN International, ISIS suicide bombers cannot conduct such attacks without support from “elements within the state.” And as Arzu Cerkezoglu, the general-secretary of the Confederation of Progressive Trade Unions (DİSK) states, the issue is not only about “who detonated the bomb but those who are politically responsible: The president, the prime minister, [Ankara’s] mayor and the police chief.”
This was only one of several recent attacks on democratic forces in Turkey. Explosions hit HDP’s final election rally in Diyarbakir just two days before the June 7 elections. Despite this, the HDP managed to pass the threshold of 10% of the total votes — required to take seats in parliament. That made it impossible for the AKP to reach a super-majority, and scuttled its dreams to change the country’s parliamentary system into a presidential system that could give Recep Tayyip Erdogan more executive powers.
Despite the government’s best efforts, the HDP had electoral success, while the AKP could not get enough seats to form a single party government. Optimism of the progessive forces waned when 33 Kurdish and Turkish activists were killed in July in the Turkish border town of Suruc. A suicide attack targeted university students who were planning to show their solidarity with the Rojava people, especially with those who fought against ISIL (the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, also known as ISIS), to maintain local control of the region, and build a grassroots democracy based on local popular assemblies.
The government framed the bombings as an act of “terrorism”. It declared ISIL responsible, but also attacked Kurdish forces by ending the ceasefire and suspending the peace negotiations with the PKK. It declared a state of siege in different parts of the Kurdish region, and violently attacked civilians in Cizre (Sirnak), Nusaybin (Mardin) and Sur (Diyarbakir).
One of the perpetrators of the Ankara blasts was identified as Yunus Emre Alagöz, the younger brother of Abdurrahman Alagöz who was responsible for the Suruç bombing. Many reports suggest both Yunus and a second suspect, Ömer Deniz Dündar, are linked to ISIL. And according to the daily Hurriyer, the names of the two suicide bombers have been circulating for months as potential threats; the police were informed that precisely such an attack was being planned.
Despite these strong links, the Turkish government tried to manipulate public opnion by blaming the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, the armed wing of the Kurdish movement, for the blasts.
Amid these circumstances, Turkey’s voters go to the polls on November 1 for the snap election that was called after coalition negotiations between the AKP and the bourgeois opposition parties broke down. Polls suggest that the AKP will again fail to get a parliamentary majority. Beyond this electoral process, hope is linked to signs of the solidarity growing between Kurdish and Turkish peoples, along with a revitalization of the working class as a strong politcal actor.