On Saturday a terrorist attack claimed at least 95 innocent lives in Turkey's capital Ankara and left hundreds wounded. The assault took place minutes before a peace rally that attracted thousands of activists and citizens, including members of several labor unions, nongovernmental organizations and political parties, to the city's largest public square. In the wake of the deadliest terrorist attack in the nation's history, Turkey's political leadership, including President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, described the event as a heinous attack on the country's democracy and proceeded to call for three days of national mourning. In the meantime, Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) Co-Chair Selahattin Demirtaş appeared in front of TV cameras to blame the explosion on the government in an attempt to score cheap political points in the face of human suffering. Forty-eight hours after the deadly blast and with the death toll slowly rising, we mourn the victims, pray for their families and discuss what needs to be done to prevent future tragedies. There will be a time for tough questions and public scrutiny, but first and foremost we must find it in our hearts to respect the dead.
With an official investigation yet to reach concrete results, a lot of things remain unclear. As Davutoğlu told reporters yesterday, the authorities have yet to find out which terrorist organization perpetrated Saturday's attack. At this time, most commentators seem to believe that the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), against which Turkey has been launching airstrikes since July, might be responsible. The advocates of this view point out that the deadly blast was, at least in some ways, similar to the Suruç suicide bombing massacre in which more than 30 Turkish citizens died. Others claim that another group such as the Revolutionary People's Liberation Party-Front (DHKP-C) might have targeted the peace rally. Yet another group of people make the case that a group of hardliners in the PKK leadership may have played a role had the organization announced hours before the explosion that it was going to reinstate the cease-fire on Sunday. The public, likewise, remains ill-informed about certain details. The explosion took place outside the designated area for demonstrators, each of whom were searched by the police, but it remains unclear how the terrorists could get close enough to cause such a high number of casualties. Nor does the public know what the perpetrators hoped to accomplish by blowing themselves up in a crowded area. The explosion took place at a time when the Russian military has effectively entered the war in Syria, Iran is pushing for greater regional influence, the Assad regime's secret service Mukhabarat openly threatens with terrorism and Turkey clearly decided to side with the West in regional affairs.
Answers, one would hope, are coming.
In light of Saturday's terrorist attack, the vast majority of Turkey's 78 million citizens acted in a responsible and respectful manner. The nation's political leaders, who have no shortage of different opinions on a range of issues, set a great example for their supporters by calling for calm and condemning terrorism. The Turkish media, likewise, showed due respect to the victims' families by refusing to publish graphic images of the blast and denying the perpetrators an opportunity to showcase their evil work.
The obvious exception was, unfortunately enough, Demirtaş, saw the terrorist attack as an opportunity to spark outrage and promote more violence. Demirtaş, who called on his supporters to demonstrate, which led to dozens of deaths in September 2014, lived up to his reputation as the most irresponsible man in front of Turkish TV cameras on Saturday by claiming that the government had targeted the people. Having been hailed as a proponent of peace in the international media, the HDP politician not only added to tensions caused by the bloody PKK campaign, which has absolute control over Demirtaş's party, but also found it convenient to divert attention from his party's advocacy of terrorism at home. Having staunchly opposed Parliament's efforts to strengthen law enforcement and refraining from calling the PKK a terrorist organization, the HDP co-chair had no problem playing with fire. Luckily, cooler heads prevailed over the weekend.
The fact that the people of Turkey are unwilling to give terrorists what they want, however, does not absolve the authorities of their responsibilities. Although the interim government, which has been in power for several weeks, lacks the political power to push a series of counterterrorism laws through Parliament, Turkey's law enforcement agencies must work hard to identify the perpetrators and bring them to justice as soon as possible. Surely enough, the only way the country can bounce back and move forward is to investigate all claims and take necessary steps to prevent future bloodshed. Following the Nov. 1 parliamentary elections, Turkey's next government must launch a parliamentary investigation to hear testimonies and shed light on the deadliest terrorist attack in Turkey's history.
As Daily Sabah, we condemn Saturday's terrorist attack in Ankara and offer our condolences to the families and loved ones of the innocent victims who perished as a result of the deadly blast. May no people in the world lose fathers, mothers, sons or daughters to such meaningless violence.