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Opinion

Opinion: The Turkish nightmare

The bomb attack in Istanbul has shocked Germany, especially because most of the victims came from Germany. For Turkey, the attack means a new peak in a spate of violence, writes Reinhard Baumgarten in Istanbul.

These days, nightmares are becoming reality in Turkey. Terror has reached the megacity of Istanbul and it is not surprising. Fears have obviously been growing in Germany, since the victims of the latest terrorist attacks may all have been German vacationers. Now, many in Germany will notice that they, too, are affected by what happens "when off in Turkey, people up in arms are battling" as Goethe wrote in Faust.

Parallel conflicts in Turkey

This is exactly what is happening - and with a growing impact. In the past seven months in Turkey, there have been three massive terrorist attacks with a death toll of over 150. The victims were sympathizers of left-wing politics and Kurds. The perpetrators were supporters of the terrorist organization that calls itself "Islamic State."

Reinhard Baumgarten Kommentarbild App EINSCHRÄNKUNG PROVISORISCH

Reinhard Baumgarten

At the same time, an unofficial civil war has been raging between security forces and the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK); it has cost the lives of hundreds of people. The government in Ankara insists that only PKK terrorists have been killed, but many in the Kurdish regions speak of civilian deaths.

Turkey is waging a war against terrorists. Until now, it has focused on the war against the Kurdish PKK. The worst attacks on civilians have, however, been carried out by the 'IS' terrorist group.

Now, German vacationers have been hit and people in Germany are horrified. Why Germans? It is probably a coincidence that follows the laws of probability: More than five million Germans make up the largest contingent of visitors to Turkey, and tourism, as one of the pillars of the Turkish economy, has been intentionally targeted.

Paying the price for leniency towards IS

The perpetrators are, once again, pro-IS, according to Turkish government sources. For years, the Turkish state has tolerated Islamist militants, allowed them a free hand and even indirectly supported them, as reported by Turkey's critical media outlets in recent years. Ankara has always rejected such accusations; Turkish leaders need not fear criticism within the country as they have largely eliminated critical journalism. That is also part of the Turkish nightmare at the moment.

Now, Ankara's allies must take the initiative: They must urge Turkey to take decisive action to combat terrorism. They must compel Turkey to resolve its domestic Kurdish PKK conflict with words and not arms. If both measures are implemented with resolve, then there is hope that terrorism of any kind will effectively be combatted and that Turkey will avert a descent into civil war.

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