Earlier this month, Turkey experienced the worst terrorist attacks in its history. Two suicide bombers targeted a peace rally, killing more than 100 people. There is no shortage of suspects, but no group has yet taken responsibility. An outrage of this scale should unite a nation, but instead the attacks appear to be more deeply dividing an already fractured country. There are real and growing fears that Turkey could be on the brink of civil war or an authoritarian crackdown.
On Oct. 10, hundreds of people gathered at Ankara's main train station to protest mounting violence in Turkey against Kurds. Two suicide bombers mingled in the crowd, largely populated with leftists, Kurds and union members. When their vests exploded, they killed at least 102 people and wounded more than 400 others. Most observers believe the blasts were the work of members or sympathizers of the Islamic State extremist group, who were responding to a Turkish government offensive against the group that had been launched after a terrorist attack in the town of Suruc in July. Islamic State forces claimed responsibility for that blast, even though the perpetrator was a Turkish Kurd alleged to have joined the group.
The Kurdish connection is important. The Ankara government has long had an uneasy relationship with its Kurdish population, which it believes is interested in joining other Kurds in the region to carve out a homeland. The Kurdish Workers Party (KPP) is considered a terrorist group by Ankara and other Western governments, but that did not prevent the Turkish government from holding peace talks and reaching a tenuous cease-fire with the group.