Trying to analyze a terrorist attack by only looking at the target is nothing less than what the terrorists want us to do. The target may one day be a police headquarters, another day a stadium, a political demonstration or a nightclub: The point is that the terrorists' main objective is to convey a political message. Terrorists sometimes kill officials, like the Russian ambassador or soldiers. Some other times, they kill civilians who were partying to celebrate the new year.
Unfortunately, for some time, we have witnessed all sorts of terrorist activity in our country. There many ways to explain this situation. No matter what, because Turkey is determined to fight terrorism in all its forms, including in Syrian territory, we have to admit that more attacks are likely in the future.
Attacking Reina nightclub in the early hours of Jan. 1 was, however, different from all other recent terrorist attacks that have targeted Turkey. The attack was similar to terrorist attacks carried out by Daesh and al-Qaida in several Western countries. Maybe this fact will make it easier for Westerners to have more empathy toward the Turkish people, something they often lacked concerning other PKK or Daesh attacks. One may remember world leaders walking together in the streets of Paris in the wake of the November 2015 terrorist attacks. The same may not happen here, however, because the Jan. 1 Istanbul attack represents two important tests.
The first test is the one Turkey has to pass. Those civilians, including foreign tourists, were murdered in a nightclub while partying. Will other Turks, those who don't have the habit of going to nightclubs, or to celebrate the New Year, be able to develop empathy toward the victims? Will those who always criticize people with Western lifestyles feel that empathy? Will people from Turkey's conservative and religious segments be able to say out loud that they condemn the killing of those party-goers they have always disliked? One can only hope that they will. Because if they don't, and if Turkey gives the image of an even more polarized country, a place where fellow citizens aren't even able to share their grief, terrorists will be quite happy with the result. The fight against terrorism requires, above all, national solidarity; while polarization only weakens the social structures.
The other test is about the Western powers. If the Turkish authorities fail to reinforce national solidarity around the people who have lost their lives in this nightclub, Westerners will not waste a second to add this deficiency on their list of criticism against Turkey. They may even claim that the government doesn't care about radical Islamism, or that it is not fulfilling its duty to track and punish radical terrorists, who represent a global threat.
Let's hope some foreign circles don't get the opportunity to push Turkey to do or undo some particular things in its foreign and domestic policy, by exploiting this terrorist attack. Any policy that is not internationally constructive will, at the end of the day, benefit the terrorists.
One must not think that the terror attacks occurring on Turkish soil are targeting Turkey alone. Every single attack is a test for Turkey and its allies who have to demonstrate that their alliance still means something. In this sense, there is no difference between the Christmas Market attacks in Berlin or the Bataclan Concert Hall massacre in Paris and what has recently happened in Turkey. So why are all these nations still incapable of acting together, and why do they allow terrorism to be used as an instrument of proxy war by third party actors?
Terrorism is an instrument that will harm everybody, sooner or later. Let's hope these attacks finally give an impulse to strengthen international cooperation.