City in fear

Istanbul before the NATO Summit and the Turkish-American Interest Situation

A multinational offensive of laughter is what newspapers in the U.S. have called U.S. President Bush’s visit to Europe. But there is little sign of it, at least in Turkey, where Bush will attend the NATO summit that begins Monday. Already for days Istanbul is in a state of emergency. Whole neighborhoods are cordoned off with concrete barriers. Even shipping traffic on the Bosporus was massively restricted. Fears of bombings around the NATO summit have dominated the Turkish media for days.

City in fear

Anti-Bush demonstration station in Istanbul on Saturday. Photo: Indymedia Istanbul

The fear increased when some bombs actually exploded a few days ago. A bomb detonated in front of the Hilton Hotel, where Bush is to stay, causing property damage. Four people were killed by an attack on a public bus. Among the dead was the assassin Semiran Polat. Meanwhile, the Revolutionary People’s Liberation Front took responsibility for the attack. In a statement it spoke of the bomb exploding prematurely. The DHKP/C is one of the few groups of the militant left in Turkey that still sticks to armed struggle (stretching the concept of terror).

In the meantime, numerous free-riders are also exploiting the terrorist fears. Terror warnings are constantly received by police, who detonate dropped packages. So far the packages regularly proved to be dummies. But this only adds to the fear. Many residents of Istanbul who can afford it leave the city for a few days.

The numerous human rights activists who want to express their opposition to the policy of the US President and NATO on the streets are also afraid. In the general climate of fear they feared reprisals. Massive police action at anti-Bush demonstrations in Ankara on Saturday appears to confirm their fears. In numerous European countries, Turkish exile organizations have joined together to form the Resistanbul2004 alliance. Last Saturday there were demonstrations against the NATO summit in Paris, Vienna, London, Berlin, Koln and Stuttgart. In the next few days the events on the streets of Turkey will be observed. If repression against Bush opponents occurs, protests to be held in front of Turkic consulates and embassies.

In the run-up to the NATO summit, the Turkish government was able to score some political successes. The European Commission has removed Turkey from the list of states to be monitored for human rights violations because the situation in the country has improved. A particular success of the Turkish government is the unequivocal commitment of the U.S. president to the rapid admission of Turkey to the EU during the EU summit in Dublin. The US president is pursuing two goals. He wants to strengthen the U.S.-friendly side within the EU. Regardless of the government, the Turkish militaries are considered traditionally US-friendly. Bush also wants to present the moderate Islamic Turkish government to the Arab world as a successful symbiosis of Islamic orientation and Western values. This message is important in the run-up to a NATO summit that will be largely determined by the military organization’s involvement in the Iraq war. This is also to satisfy growing criticism of the human and financial burdens of the U.S. involvement in Iraq.

The U.S. also has a few Trumps left to secure the goodwill of the Turkic government. This is in addition to Bush’s declaration that he will intensify the fight against Kurdish separatism. For the demobilized Kurdish guerrilla groups brought into northern Iraq after the PKK’s unilateral cease-fire, the grace period previously afforded them by the occupying forces could now be over. Thus a renewed conflict is preprogrammed. A few weeks ago, the PKK successors announced their unilateral ceasefire. Since then, armed clashes in the Kurdish areas have increased.

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