On Saturday, a suicide bomber detonated on Istiklal Street in Istanbul’s most popular shopping district killing 4 and wounding dozens in the fourth attack on Turkey’s largest urban centers since the beginning of the year.
The blast came less than a week after a female TAK supporter carried out an attack on a transit hub in Ankara’s Kizilay neighborhood where 37 people lost their lives and more than 100 sustained injuries.
It was only natural to assume that Saturday’s blast in Istanbul would be tied to either the PKK or to offshoot TAK. Erdogan’s crackdown on Kurdish enclaves in the country’s southeast and the onset of the Kurdish New Year have Turkey on high alert.
But on Sunday, reports suggest that ISIS was behind yesterday’s attack. Or at least a man with ISIS “ties.”
The perpetrator was allegedly one Mehmet Ozturk Turkey said, after getting a DNA match between samples found at the scene and the man’s family. “Mr. Ozturk had left his home in the southeastern province of Gaziantep for Istanbul in 2013, and was on a list of Islamic State suspects,” WSJ reports. “He detonated explosives strapped to his body minutes before 11:00 a.m.”
Three of those killed were Israelis, and authorities are now trying to determine whether Ozturk deliberately targeted them or whether they were just in the wrong place at the wrong time. As Reuters notes, “the attack on Istiklal Street, Istanbul's most popular shopping district, appeared similar to a January suicide bombing in another tourist area of Istanbul. In that attack, blamed by the government on Islamic State, a pedestrian suicide bomber blew himself up among a group of German tourists near the city's historic center.”
The ISIS bombings are convenient for Erdogan. Each time the PKK or TAK launches an attack, ISIS seems to follow suit in relatively short order. This allows Ankara to tie one to the other. Not directly mind you. That is, Ankara isn’t saying they’re working in concert. And it doesn’t need to. The simple fact that ISIS carries out attacks right after Kurdish militants allows Erdogan to blur the distinction between violent political dissidents and jihadists in the hearts and minds of the Western world. And that’s important. Why? Because it makes the world less sympathetic to what the Turkish army is doing to the restive Kurdish population in Turkey’s southeast, where cities are under siege and the government has been variously accused of committing genocide (more here).
Kurds in Turkey aren’t even allowed by the government to celebrate the Persian new year (Newroz). In fact, just this week, a British citizen who taught computer science at Istanbul’s Bilgi University and had been in Turkey for a quarter century was deported for “making terrorist propaganda.” His offense: he was in possession of an invitation to a Newroz party.
As you might imagine, not all Kurds have complied with Erdogan’s Newroz ban and that’s just fine with the President. Because he’d rather blast Kurds with water cannons and fire tear gas at them anyway. Below find out what happens when you are a Kurd and you celebrate the new year in Silopi.