The 9/11 attacks raised a lot of questions in the U.S. Some were about the effectiveness of national security issues. The U.S. became a paranoid state seeing all Muslims as a threat after a bloody attack that will never be erased from the national consciousness. In parallel with that, we've seen a lot of debates on "Islam and democracy" and quite a few arguments saying that Muslims will never make their peace with democracy. After a decade and a half, it is still on the table. Being against extreme measures, the majority of people, Muslims included, accept that 9/11 was a brutal terrorist attack targeting innocent people.
Nowadays, in Turkey, we are looking for an answer similar to the ones in the West: Can pro-Kemalists, seculars and ultra-leftists make peace with democracy?
Last week, on March 31, two brutal terrorist attacks were staged in Istanbul. In spite of the fact that I hate using the word "terrorism," it was literally so. An Istanbul prosecutor, Mehmet Selim Kiraz, was killed by two militants from the outlawed Revolutionary People's Liberation Party-Front (DHKP-C) in his office in the Çağlayan courthouse after being held hostage for eight hours. The DHKP-C had published pictures of the prosecutor with a gun to his head on social media threatening to kill him unless their demands were met. The ugly propaganda was used by some social media users and was quickly sold out to others with them narrating the attack somehow as a type of protest against the government.
On the same day, a female DHKP-C member, who was previously named as a terror attack suspect on several occasions, and two other assailants attacked Istanbul's police headquarters on Vatan Boulevard. She was killed on the spot while the two others fled and two police officers were injured. Again, on social media, the terrorist offensive was portrayed as a heroic action by several accounts and the female assailant was depicted as a martyr.
Some of those who praised the terrorist attacks were DHKP-C supporters or sympathizers, in other words the ordinary far-leftists dreaming for a bloody revolution to overthrow a democratically-elected government that cares about the values of Islam. We are used to seeing them in Turkey every day. But it was critical that some were politicians and some were journalists.
Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, the leader of the main opposition party, the Republican People's Party (CHP), accused the government by cooking up the attack right after the news started to spread. A day after the attack, Hüseyin Aygün, a deputy from the CHP, visited the families of the Çağlayan assailants who killed a prosecutor in his office to give his condolences while another deputy from the CHP, Sezgin Tanrıkulu, who was invited by the two attackers to the courthouse to play the role of negotiator during the violence, said that he was on his way but disappeared and never picked up his phone again until the moment the prosecutor was killed.
The well-known media figures were way ahead of the politicians. I don't want to mention names but several anchors and journalists put in a huge amount of effort to justify the assaults. According to many, it was not a terror attack or even an attack, it was a "protest," it was an "event," or worse it was a "cause."
Well, we are already familiar with those who have never stood for democracy but have been furious with losing their privileges after they went out of the wings of the "secular" and pro-Kemalist military and of the shadow of the weapons of the old guards. We have been living with them for decades, and they are our pro-Kemalists, our leftists, our seculars. But embracing them doesn't mean that we can tolerate terrorism. We are not as paranoid as the U.S. was, but we have to ask this question: will pro-Kemalists ever tolerate democracy?.