Growing urban terrorism: Frankenstein rises

FATMANUR ALTUN
Published 21.11.2015 02:13
Updated 21.11.2015 12:23

The G20 summit in Antalya, which was held on Nov. 15-16, ended with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's closing speech and the issuing of a final declaration. Although previously expected to focus mostly on the refugee crisis and the Syrian civil war, the meetings at the summit were marked by the Nov. 13 terrorist attacks in Paris that claimed at least 130 lives. The most significant result from the summit was the determination to take a joint stance, which was also reflected in the final declaration. In this regard, especially Russian President Vladimir Putin's claim that there are 40 states, including some G20 members, supporting terrorism through financing DAESH was perhaps one of the most interesting moments of the summit.

That an actor like Russia, which has been directly involved in the Syrian crisis and caused it to exacerbate, complained about DAESH terrorism and financing made this assertion particularly remarkable. Russia has assisted the repressive policies of Syrian President Bashar Assad's regime and done all it could since March 2011 to enable the regime to suppress the Syrian opposition. Policies that the Assad regime has pursued with the assistance of Russia and Iran created the very environment in which DAESH flourished. Pursuing policies that allow DAESH to expand and become stronger is as problematic as financing it.

The instrumentalization of terror

Of course, when it comes to terrorism, the problems are not limited to these. At issue is a colossal problem that began to affect the whole world like an environmental disaster. That problem is the instrumentalization of terror in implementing international policies. All states around the globe know on what grounds and with what methods this instrumentalization is put into practice. And even if they do not use this method at the moment, they tacitly accept that it has some justification.

Behind this approval lies a distorted understanding about global politics and the operation of a power struggle that rises out of this framework. As is known, both World War I and World War II were conflicts in which all the belligerents fought for and on behalf of themselves, did not hesitate to declare war when a "casus belli" emerged and fought by openly mobilizing all means at their disposal. However, with growing technological means and dramatic changes in war techniques when compared to previous centuries, conventional war has begun to bring huge destruction. Although states brought all their strength to the battlefield and expected to achieve victory in a short time, wars have become increasingly prolonged and the resulting destruction has entered an unbearable dimensions. What Europe experienced during World War I and World War II were conflicts that were way too protracted for human life, that completely disintegrated the social fabric, that were not restricted to fronts only, that targeted the entire territory of the belligerents engulfing the civilians and soldiers alike and that led to mass atrocities and carnage.

Unable to overcome the trauma caused by these wars, the international system has increasingly preferred the instrumentalization of terrorism, beginning with the last quarter of the 20th century. Terrorism, which began to be used practically as a covert method to avoid great wars and their potential political consequences, was put into practice by states through training and arming small groups in various regions and manipulating them for their own interests. All the states that suffered from the activities of armed groups in their territory knew that these groups were financed by one or more foreign governments. But expressing this openly was not possible due to possible problems. It was usually powerful states that used terrorism until recently as a tool in international politics against weaker states. In this sense, terrorism has proved a useful tool in destabilizing weaker states, undermining their economies and interfering with their domestic affairs.

Growing urban terrorism

After the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks in the U.S., however, the world has seen this cycle beginning to break. With these attacks, the scourge of terrorism, which had been used by strong states to manipulate weaker ones, has entered onto a different plane. Having virtually turned into a Frankenstein's monster, terrorism started spilling beyond the poor, weak and politically unstable societies from where it had emerged and began to claim lives in the middle of cities. The Paris attacks are most recent example of urban terrorism.Unfortunately, remarks that this incipient trend will come to a halt soon are not trusted much. We witness serious debates over the security of cities. Among those responsible for a trend that kills a lot of people and renders cities vulnerable are some of the most advanced nations and various developing states. In the face of such an open fact, which has not met any criticism, we cannot look at the future with optimism while doing nothing. We can start by acknowledging the mistake of the instrumentalization of terrorism at every possible platform and trying to create public pressure to stop it.

* Marmara University, Sociology Department

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