Turkey: Government implicated in ISIS suicide attack

July 24, 2015
Funeral for victims of the Suruç massacre.

On July 20, 32 people were killed in a suicide bombing attack on a cultural centre in Suruç, a town in Turkish Kurdistan. More than 100 were injured.

Suruç is located across the border from the Syrian Kurdish town of Kobanê, which was besieged by forces of the self-styled Islamic State terrorist group, also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), between September and January.

The resistance of the Kurdish-led Women's Protection Units (YPJ) and Peoples' Protection Units (YPG) made the town known globally as the place where the seemingly unstoppable advance of ISIS was halted.

ISIS made a renewed attack on Kobanê on June 25, massacring 233 civilians, mainly children, before the YPG and YPJ drove them off.

The victims of the July 20 bombing in Suruç — the first significant ISIS attack on Turkish territory — were mainly members of the Socialist Federation of Youth Associations (SGDF). Several hundred SGDF activists and allies had travelled to Suruç from across Turkey with the intention of continuing to Kobanê to assist in the city's reconstruction and to witness the feminist, grassroots democratic revolution in Rojava (Syrian Kurdistan). Building a children's playground and a library were among their planned projects.

Some of the victims of the Suruç massacre.

In an article published by the Firat News Agency on July 21, Kurdish journalist Amed Dicle wrote: “They met with the district governor and told him that they would like to cross over to Kobanê. The district governor kept them waiting by saying that only a few of them could cross over as opposed to the whole group.

“The bloody attack in Suruç took place after young people made a press statement in Amara Cultural Centre in response to the district governor [preventing them from continuing] … Police comprehensively searched the youth as they were heading to Amara Cultural Centre.

“The police checkpoint was 200 metres away from Amara … Did the police set up the checkpoint 200 metres away from Amara so that they would not get hurt by the explosion?

“How did the ISIS suicide bomber enter the cultural centre in an environment where the police searched each notebook, camera and even pencil on the slaughtered youth?”

A number of eyewitness accounts report that Turkish security forces attacked survivors and the injured after the explosion.

Firat News Agency reported on July 20 that Kurdish filmmaker Garip Çelik, who was filming the SGDF's press conference when the bombing took place, “noted that the police came to the crime scene after the explosion only to attack civilians [and] said that ambulances arrived too late and many injured people were taken to hospitals in civilian cars.”

Kurdish Question said on July 20 that eyewitnesses reported that “Turkish police attacked some of the vehicles carrying the injured with water cannons and threatened those helping the wounded”.

Director of the Amara Culture Centre Zehra Yanardağ told the JINHA Women's News Agency on July 21: “The police came before the ambulances. Tanks closed off the roads, and they threw tear gas … We couldn't breathe. Many of the wounded died that way.”

She said survivors waved down cars to take the wounded to hospital.

“One of the cars we stopped … refused to open its doors. It was a civilian car. When people really insisted, a gun emerged from the car and they opened fire. We found out that those were police,” she said.

There have been consistent allegations of Turkish collaboration with ISIS, particularly against the Kurdish-led forces in Rojava, who are ideologically aligned with political parties and armed self-defence groups in Turkish Kurdistan. During the siege of Kobanê, ISIS forces resupplied from across the border.

On June 15, when the YPJ, YPG and their allies took the town of Tell Abyad (Girê Spî) from ISIS, the defeated ISIS forces fled across the Turkish border to Akçakale. “Soon after, Dicle News Agency and other oppositional media organs documented the ISIS headquarters in Akçakale,” Amed Dicle wrote.

The fall of Tell Abyad was a significant strategic defeat for ISIS, cutting them off from the Turkish border and at the same time connecting two of the three cantons of the Rojava Autonomous Administration.

The June 25 attack on Kobanê was launched from directly across the Turkish border. It was seen by the Kurdish revolutionary forces as revenge for the defeat of ISIS at Tell Abyad but also for the successes of the left wing Kurdish-based Peoples Democratic Party (HDP) in the June 7 Turkish election, whose strong showing deprived the ruling AKP of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of an absolute majority in parliament.

The HDP's electoral success was based on bringing together a broad coalition of leftists, feminists, LGBTI activists, and ethnic and religious minorities. This coalition drew heavily on the Gezi Park movement of 2013, when protests over the privatisation of public space in Istanbul snowballed into a nationwide youth-led civil society uprising.

The HDP condemned Turkish government complicity in the Suruç bombing. In a July 20 statement HDP co-chairs Figen Yüksekdağ and Selahattin Demirtaş, noting the failure of the Turkish state to provide security, said “our people, our political institutions, civil society organisations, municipalities and all social structures such as vocational organisations should develop their own security measures”.

The ISIS attack and Erdoğan government's complicity has also been condemned by political organisations throughout Kurdistan and by left-wing groups in Turkey, Europe and the Middle East.

Thousands have mobilised in ongoing protests in Turkey that have been harshly repressed by police with tear gas and water cannons. There have also been worldwide protests in solidarity.

On July 20, the US National Security Council released a statement condemning the ISIS attack but expressing solidarity with the Turkish government.

The Turkish government responded by announcing a crackdown on terrorist cells throughout Turkey.

“Turkish police hit 140 addresses in 26 districts in Istanbul [on July 24] in an operation that was reportedly aimed at the YDG-H (Patriotic Revolutionary Youth-Movement) the DHKP-C (Revolutionary People's Liberation Party-Front) and ISIS …

“While much is being made of the Turkish government's recent moves against ISIS … the government and the reactionary ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) are using the fight against ISIS for cover to instead attack the people's organisations within Turkey and North Kurdistan and revolutionary Rojava in northern Syria,” Turkeyharvest.blogspot.com.au reported.

A woman, Günay Özarslan, was killed in the raids. Police allege she was a member of the DHKP-C.

Raids were conducted in other cities, which Turkeyharvest.blogspot.com.au said also targeted members of legal political organisations including the HDP.

The Turkish air force has bombed targets belonging to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) in Turkish and Iraqi Kurdistan and at least two police have been killed by PKK-affiliated self-defence forces.

Just before she was killed in the Suruç atrocity, 20-year-old Ezgi Sadet was interviewed by JINHA.

“All the children of Gezi need to come to Kobanê. Because there, we witnessed a living revolution. Everyone needs to stand up for this, especially women. We are calling on all women, all children of Gezi, all those who resist, all revolutionaries, socialists, everyone to be in solidarity with Kobanê,” she said.

“This revolution took place right next door to us. It took place in the Middle East, a place where violence, repression, cruelty to women and torture are intense. We will go to this place, where there's been a women's revolution, and rebuild it.”

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