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The Perils Pulling Turkey Apart

2 minute read

A deadly summer of political violence in Turkey culminated in the country’s worst-ever terrorist attack on Oct. 10 when twin bombings at a peace rally in Ankara killed at least 97 people, mainly Kurdish demonstrators. Here’s why Turkey is at a dangerous crossroads:


The country has been gripped by unrest since June elections failed to deliver a governing coalition. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) lost its parliamentary majority, while the moderate Kurdish party HDP won 13% of the vote. After failing to form a government, Erdogan called a snap election on Nov. 1. Analysts say he could benefit from the instability if voters back the AKP simply to end the chaos.


A 2013 cease-fire between the government and Kurdish separatists broke down in July; the Turkish military has since bombed the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in Syria and Iraq while PKK militants have staged multiple attacks in Turkey. Many Kurds have accused Erdogan of using the breakdown in talks to foster anti-Kurdish sentiment ahead of the elections.


The government blamed the Ankara bombings on ISIS, which may be seeking retaliation for an offensive Turkey launched against it in August. But Kurdish leaders say the authorities bear responsibility for failing to protect the demonstrators, and some observers claim that ultra-nationalist “deep state” forces were behind the attacks.


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Write to Naina Bajekal at naina.bajekal@time.com