International news agencies inform that bomb blasts in Ankara targeting Turkish peace rally on Saturday have claimed at least 95 lives. It is the deadliest terror attack in Turkey in recent years— one that threatens to provoke ethnic tensions in the country. Although no has claimed responsibility for the blasts so far, Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu suggested that either the Kurdish rebels or the Islamic State group militants have to be behind it. The twin explosion occurred as hundreds of Opposition supporters and Kurdish activists gathered for the peace rally organised by Turkey’s public workers’ union and other groups. The protesters organised to call for increased democracy in Turkey and an end to the renewed violence between the Kurdish rebels and Turkish security forces. Although, it is difficult to ascertain the real cause of the attack, it comes at a time when the civil war between the Turkish government and the Kurdish militants from the Kurdistan Workers’ Party has seen an upswing. This is among the worst instances of violence the country has seen since the 1990s. On the surface, the conflict is the latest in <g data-gr-id="27">cycle</g> of violence between two long term enemies that has been going on for decades.
PKK, a Kurdish nationalist group with <g data-gr-id="26">Marxist</g> origin, has long fought the Turkish government. The PKK seeks autonomy for Turkey’s ethnic Kurdish minority, who are concentrated in the country’s southeast.
The <g data-gr-id="32">coflict</g>, over the decades, has killed over 40,000 people, with violence peaking in the 1990s. There have been some signs of progress: Turkey’s leader since 2003, now the President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, opened negotiations with the PKK in 2012 and eased some of the country’s infamous restrictions on Kurds, including a ban on private schools teaching the Kurdish language and even a ban on certain Kurdish letters. A ceasefire took hold in 2013, and it seemed as though it might turn into an actual peace treaty. On July 22, the PKK killed two Turkish police officers in the city of Urfa. According to strategic experts, the killing was in retaliation for an ISIS suicide bombing on the Turkish border on July 20. That might seem odd because Turkey is bombing ISIS positions in Syria. But Turkish Kurds believe that the Turkish government secretly supports the ISIS.
However, it is the current state of politics in Turkey that may threaten to compound the situation. Turkey has new elections on November 1, following the shock June elections that denied Erdogan’s party, the AKP, a Parliamentary majority for the first time since 2003.
Erdogan is looking to consolidate the Turkish nationalist vote to improve on his party’s showing — which gives him <g data-gr-id="29">an incentive</g> to step up the war on the PKK, something the nationalists want.
And the PKK, for its part, can also benefit politically from the fighting, as conflict with the Turkish government strengthens pro-PKK nationalism, already rising due to Syrian Kurds’ successes against the ISIS.