Istanbul Blast: How It Can Benefit Erdogan?

According to Turkish authorities, at least 6 people have been killed and 81 wounded in an explosion in the Taksim Square area, Istanbul, which occurred around 4.20 pm on November 13.

The main suspect is Ahlam Albashir, a Syrian national who would have revealed that she was trained by the Kurdish Workers Party (PKK) and by the Kurdish-Arab militias of Syria (YPG), the latter country from which the order to attack would have arrived. Vice-President Fuat Oktay said the blast is thought to be a terrorist attack, a position supported by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan who condemned what he defined as a “vile attack”.

The blast, the first to hit Istanbul in a number of years, has reminded Turks of a wave of attacks carried out by various militant groups targeting Turkish cities between mid-2015 and early 2017.

Both the PKK and the YPG said they were unrelated to the affair, stating that they were in no way involved in what happened in Istanbul and in turn condemning the attack. At the moment, investigations are still ongoing and there is a lack of evidence to support the statements of the Turkish authorities – always inclined to put Kurdish formations first on the list of suspects – but in the meantime, it is easy to imagine what consequences this attack will have both internally and internationally.

In the wake of the attack, condolences to Turkey have poured in from around the world. The US said it stood “shoulder-to-shoulder” with its NATO ally in “countering terrorism”, while French President Emmanuel Macron and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky highlighted their support through tweets. Countries including Pakistan, Italy, and Greece also expressed their solidarity.

The explosion in Istiklal street comes shortly after the beginning of a negotiation between Erdogan and the pro-party Kurdish HDP for the adoption of an amendment to the Constitution designed to protect the right of women to wear the veil and the traditional values of the family. This first approach to the HDP could have opened the way for a wider dialogue on the forthcoming elections, in which the pro-Kurdish party should play a decisive role.

After the attack, however, it is highly unlikely that the negotiations will continue and it is even easy to expect new measures against the HDP, already at risk of closure on charges of ties with the PKK, considered by Turkey, the US, and the UE a terrorist organization. The risk, however, is also that the number of attacks on the party’s headquarters and its representatives will multiply.

Moreover, the fact that the woman accused of detonating the device is of Syrian nationality further complicates the picture of a population whose rights have been constantly limited in recent years by a series of laws that have reduced the scope for the expression of dissent against the government.

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