Henna ceremonies were underway at a street wedding on August 20 in Gaziantep, Turkey’s largest southeastern province, when a child, aged between twelve to fourteen, detonated a suicide vest.
A commemorative fête eerily became a bloodbath where 51 people perished and 100, mostly women and children, were fatally injured. At least 29 of the 51 victims were children under the age of 18.
The smallest graves are emotionally the heaviest. Pakistan was tragically reminded of this after APS, Gulshan-e-Iqbal and recently in Quetta. Turkey is gruesomely reminded of this in Gaziantep.
Most of the wedding victims were Kurds so this is unlikely PKK Kurdish terrorism. The bomb used in Gaziantep was just like the explosives used in past Isis suicide bombings against pro-Kurdish gatherings.
Isis often used Gaziantep, located a stone’s throw away from Aleppo, to stalk Syrian opposition members who had fled Syria seeking sanctuary in Turkey. In Gaziantep, during both December 2015 and April 2016 Isis murdered Syrian opposition journalists.
This is also not the first time the Isis has diabolically turned a child into a human time bomb. Isis notoriously used 18 children as suicide bombers in 2015 alone, including in Syria, Nigeria and Afghanistan.
Children are particularly preyed upon by Isis recruiters as they are easily brainwashed and moulded. Psychological experiments like Albert Bandura’s authoritative bobo doll study show that children exposed to male adult role model aggression are likelier not only to emulate that aggression but to far exceed it.
Gaziantep’s blast spawns empathy from the US and Europe, as multilateral diplomatic ties with Ankara ebbed to alarming lows when Turkey temporarily shut a US Incirlik air base, and questioned the of sympathy from Brussels and Washington after the botched coup on July 15.
Turkey’s Western coalition assault against Isis since 2015 costs it dearly, as Isis has inflicted manifold attacks targeting innocent Turkish civilians, from Istanbul’s Ataturk airport attack in Ramazan to a bombing of a Kurdish rally in Ankara which killed over 100 in 2015. Turkey has endured thirteen terror attacks over the past eight months alone, leaving at least 200 dead, injuring 757 people, figures excluding the failed July 15 coup which destabilised a country on the precipice.
Kurds in particular come under the Isis knife. Kurds in Syria and Iraq, ethnically related to their kith and kin in Turkey, are foremost in combating the terrorists. The wedding was specifically targeted as it was for a member of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), which staunchly represents the Kurds.
The motive underlying Gaziantep’s attack is Isis seeking to avenge recent territorial setbacks on the battlefield as it is losing land in Syria where Syrian Kurdish groups aided by US Special Ops defeated them in Manbij, strategically disrupting their logistical road route to Turkey, which Isis leverages to transport foreign fighters and supplies to its self-proclaimed Caliphate.
Turkey’s recent rapprochement with the Kremlin and with Tel Aviv also sends shivers down Isis spines who bear the brunt of Moscow’s aerial offensives.
Isis has long labelled Turkey an ‘infidel hostile regime’ and dream of capturing Istanbul, making it one of their key capitals – as it was during the Ottoman epoch.
Recent assaults on Kurds taint a vexingly volatile relationship between Turkey’s opposition party, the People’s Democratic Party (HDP) representing the Kurds, and the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP). The HDP blames the AKP of purposely downplaying the Isis threat to its constituents, mostly in southeastern Turkey nestling with Syria’s border where Isis cells are most pervasive.
Nato and the West lament that Turkey isn’t deploying enough reconnaissance resources to target Isis, this indictment is harshly misleading. Turkey has taken meaningful strides in counterterrorism. From January to May 2016, 989 alleged Isis suspects/ sympathisers have been detained, out of which 228 remain incarcerated.
These are tough and turbulent times for Turkey which is confronted with a hydra-headed terror scourge.
The Gaziantep attack seeks to sow division between diverse groups in the multi-ethnic melting pot that is Turkey, which remains home and host to Alevis, Arabs, Kurds, two million Syrian refugees who trickled over the border after the civil war, Armenians and Turkmen.
Turkey is blessed with a diverse demographic make-up yet Isis and the PKK will carry on sewing ethno-religious sectarian incitement which is why Nato, the West and Islamic OIC countries must fully support Ankara.
The writer is a freelance contributor.
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