Wednesday, 29 June 2016

We Are Not Well.

'It's Either Me or Chaos'. Those were President Erdogan's words about a year ago as he sought to expand his mandate.

So far, it would appear that chaos is winning:
source: AFP

These are the number of deadly mass attacks within the last year alone. The latest, last night's triple bombing at Istanbul's Ataturk Airport, may prove to be the one with the most impact.

A friend of mine, a former student, had passed through there only a matter of hours previously. Another friend of mine was due to fly out there today. ATK is Europe's third busiest airport, and a hugely important transit hub. I've been through it myself God knows how many times, from right back when it was a rather shabby building that had seen better days through to the shining titan of a building that replaced it not that long ago.

I'm not entirely surprised it was attacked - it's easily approachable, and the attackers chose to come by taxi. Fortunately, they were stopped before they could penetrate the terminal properly, thanks to a combination of the large airport x-ray machines at the entrance to the departures floor and the presence of armed police.

Tourism to Turkey is already down due to the Syrian civil war and President Erdogan's very public spat with Russia's President Putin (although they now seem to have kissed and made up), but this latest atrocity could conceivably have a massive effect.

'Don't ask us how we are: we are not well'. I've lost count of the number of times I've seen this line from Turkish writers on social media. It isn't just the bombings or the level of violence in the country: It's the gradual wearing down of people by a clumsy, heavy-handed government. I saw my ex-student just before she left for the airport on Friday. 'I'm not surprised by anything there anymore', she said. 'Just when I thought I'd seen or heard the worst, someone from the government says or does something even more astonishing.'
She held her 11-month-old daughter. 'I'm glad I've got citizenship here. It means my daughter has too, and that means she's got more opportunities, more chances. I've been thinking to myself, my god, what kind of world is she going to grow up in?'
I thought about that morning's news about the Brexit vote, but said nothing.
'You can't believe what we're living through - we can't believe it.'
I can though. In conversation after conversation with Turkish friends and colleagues, the same refrains - We aren't well. We thought we'd seen everything, but...

It's not enough for an administration to rule. It also has to rule according to some kind of rules, too, one of which must be accountability. Unfortunately, political life under President Erdogan seems to have no sense of responsibility. instead, it shouts about external forces and does not really reflect or analyse about what it might be doing wrong. Not a single minister, leader, security chief or manager has resigned in the wake of  any of the bombings shown above.

Above all, Erdogan is obsessed with showing himself to be the strong unassailable leader, hence his veiled threat to the populace I quoted earlier. Yet by choosing himself and his own narrow interests, he has bequeathed to his nation nothing but the threat of ever greater chaos.