Last week, terrorists struck Turkey one after another. Only three days after the Ankara blast, Istanbul was hit by a suicide attack. Within days, Brussels became the target of terrorist attacks. We offer our condolences to the family members of all those who lost their lives in those attacks.
The Turkish nation, all too familiar with terror attacks, has started to question other issues since last July: Why would terror organizations ever target large cities?
Various countries may have a different perspective on these incidents. Here we will address the issue from Turkey’s perspective.
All the governments that have ruled in the history of the Turkish Republic have been subjected to fierce criticisms by their opposition, which has often been the reason why coalition governments could not be established — and at some certain times left the country without a government; sometimes, this process even led to military coups. Despite all the dissent, there is one particular issue on which all politicians and military officers agreed: Not allowing the fragmentation of Turkey. That is the reason why combatting terror has always been Turkey’s top issue.
The major reason why terror has spread to Turkish cities is the failure of terror organizations to achieve their goals in rural areas. A terrorist exemplifies the perfidious face of terror even more by targeting civilians in the cities; he attempts to instill insecurity in the public. He believes that people will resort to uprisings with which states would be unable to cope. That is why in combatting terrorism in cities, the best response would be not to deliver what terror and terrorists want.
Then the question is what does terror want?
Terrorists mainly want to instill feelings of fear and to spread panic among the masses. Terrorists seek to demoralize the masses. They want to set people and institutions against one another. Their ultimate goal is to affect the fabric of a society by means of violence and intimidation; by generating hatred, paranoia and mistrust.
Feelings of fear create uneasiness among masses. A terrorist considers an uneasy people as a potential mass that will react against its own state or stage an uprising and likely to lay the backdrop for hatred.
Nonetheless, terrorist organizations believe that messages of unity and solidarity in the face of suffering would not last long due to the frustration experienced by the society. Indeed this thesis is largely accurate.
A few days before the Istanbul terror attack, Germany closed its consulates and schools in Turkey. This was exactly what the terrorists sought. Being an unusual practice, this measure baffled the Turkish nation. Although there were some who agreed with Germany’s approach immediately after the attack, the Turkish public mostly viewed this practice as “desperate fear against terror.”
Immediately after the attack, a minority that could not get over its fear of terror took every opportunity to voice its concerns about going out. Acting upon a reflex of pain, they were actually delivering what the terrorists wanted through illogical and incoherent warnings. Perhaps they were unaware that terrified people shut up in their homes was exactly what the terrorists were looking for. They didn’t notice how irrational and wrong it was to leave the public spaces of the people to terrorists.
Once terror hits a metropolis, evacuating schools, official buildings and streets like the German government did would be tantamount to “defeat.” So is leaving public spaces to terrorists and creating an image of “being daunted” and thus making terrorists feel that their efforts have made impact. Though unintentional, this is a helpless reflex; it serves the purpose of terror. Combatting terror is not only the responsibility of police officers and military officers; it is an all-out struggle that must be carried out together with people: It must have zero tolerance for fear.
If terror has not made people weep, if it instead brought forth a sense of solidarity among them, if people are resolute about not leaving their homelands to fall into the hands of terrorists, then the acts of the terrorists have failed. That is why assuming a timid stance and avoiding going out is unbecoming to those states combatting terror, especially Turkey.
Surely caution is needed at crowded places and due measures must be taken; nevertheless, we need to keep in mind that death will find anyone at any moment. The Turkish military and police officers are brave in their struggle; they neither fear nor deliver what the terrorists want. In the same way, it is necessary for the people to be a part of this show of strength and not feel afraid. The collaboration of the security forces with the people signifies that terrorism — and terrorists — can never take shelter in that country. People’s will, their resolve and courage always frighten a terrorist.
At this stage granting certain rights to people is of primary importance. Especially in countries where terror has become a part of life, citizens must be granted the right to defend themselves against terror, and this must be legislated. Passing new laws to such effect are crucial. Meanwhile, an intellectual campaign must be launched: National awareness must be solidified and a counter-ideological campaign must be developed against the ideology of terror.
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