After the attack in Istanbul: have the backers been exposed?

Status: 14.11.2022 7:28 p.m

Is the attack in Istanbul already cleared up? A Syrian is said to have carried out the assassination on behalf of the PKK. The PKK denies that. But it could not remain without consequences for the relationship with the USA.

By Karin Senz, ARD Studio Istanbul

Less than 24 hours after the attack in the center of Istanbul, the masterminds seem to have been exposed and the perpetrators caught. The Turkish police presented a woman, a Syrian, as the assassin. She confessed, it said in a statement. The banned Kurdish PKK or its Syrian offshoot YPG – at least that’s how the government in Ankara sees the group – specially trained them and then commissioned them to carry out the attack.

According to Kristian Brakel from the Heinrich Böll Foundation in Turkey, for example, there is evidence that the PKK and associated groups are responsible for numerous attacks in busy areas of Istanbul. “An argument against this is that since the last major wave of attacks in 2015, the PKK had said it would accept civilian deaths, but never chose civilians as targets, but always security forces.” The organization spoke of an “unfortunate side effect”.

PKK denies accusation

The PKK denied any responsibility for the Istanbul attack. One does not attack civilians, it said in media close to her. A commander of the Syrian YPG also contradicted official allegations. Most recently, there was a series of attacks in Turkey in 2015/2016. At the time, the Turkish government attributed them partly to the terrorist militia “Islamic State” and partly to the PKK.

In the run-up to the presidential and parliamentary elections next summer, the Turkish media fear that the security situation will deteriorate again.

“A Strange Feeling”

Turkey had suffered from the terrorist attacks for years, then came the corona pandemic. Tourists had only now dared to return to the country. Istanbul residents also enjoyed the new light-heartedness. “You can’t always live in fear,” says a passer-by. Somehow you have to keep going. “I came and looked at this. It’s a strange feeling, but we shouldn’t get used to it as a society.”

Ekrem Imamoglu from the opposition CHP is the mayor of Istanbul. He also visited the shopping street today and spoke to shopkeepers. “We will take our responsibility to welcome the tourists in Istanbul, the guests of our city and the people of our city in an environment where they are safer than yesterday,” he promised. No one should doubt that. “We condemned terrorism and terrorist organizations at the highest level yesterday and we condemn them again today.”

Anger at the US is great

Meanwhile, Turkish Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu rejected the condolence message from the United States. This has to do with the Syrian YPG, explains Turkey expert Brakel. If the PKK and the YPG are really responsible for this attack, the anger in Turkey is understandable. The Americans have been supporting the YPG forces in Syria with weapons and training in the fight against “Islamic State” for years.

This connection between the USA and the YPG was a strategic mistake, says Brakel. “Interior Minister Soylu is an ultra-right hardliner.” It is very easy to engage in politics in Turkey with such anti-American resentment.

Clear demands on Sweden

Many fear political consequences of the attack. The focus is also on the negotiations, especially with Sweden, about its accession to NATO. Turkey will only agree to this if the government in Stockholm makes clear concessions with regard to the PKK and YPG.

“Of course that gives the Turkish government a boost,” says expert Brakel. The Turkish government has been warning of the PKK and YPG groups for years. Members would operate from Sweden and would have found a safe hinterland there, he summarizes the accusation from Ankara.

However, the expert at the Heinrich Böll Foundation in Turkey believes it is unlikely that Stockholm will now deliver on a large scale, as Ankara is demanding, among other things. There is no legal framework for this in Turkey, neither in the courts nor in the prisons.

Attack in Istanbul and the consequences

Karin Senz, ARD Istanbul, November 14, 2022 5:02 p.m

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