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Eastern Express 16.11

On November 13, 2022, a bombing took place on a busy commercial street in the very centre of historic Istanbul. The explosion killed six people and wounded 81, including two who have been seriously injured. As of yet, no one has claimed responsibility for the bombing. The police have, however. arrested a person from northern Syria believed to be responsible for Sunday’s bombing. What was the motive behind the attack and what might be the political consequences of the incident?

The attack on a central avenue in Istanbul is a bitter reminder of the bombings in Turkish cities between 2015 and 2017 that crushed the public’s sense of security and heralded a new phase in Turkey’s decades-long fight against outlawed Kurdish groups. The Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, has waged an armed insurgency against Turkey since 1984 with the aim of establishing a Kurdish state in southeast Turkey, which has since morphed into a campaign for autonomy.

The conflict between militants and state forces has cost the lives of tens of thousands of people. The PKK is considered to be a terrorist group by Turkey, the United States and the European Union. A fragile peace process and a two-and-a-half-year cease-fire with the PKK collapsed in 2015 as the Islamic State group began bombings in Turkish cities, Kurdish militants also launched car bombings. The Turkish government is often very quick to blame the PKK for attacks, which have traditionally targeted the Turkish military or police.

The PKK and Sweden’s support for it is the issue that keeps Turkey from approving Stockholm’s NATO membership bid. Relations with Washington have also been tense and continued American support for the Syrian Kurdish fighters, or the YPG, is among the top reasons.

Sunday’s attacks could renew Turkish threats of a military operation into Syria that would need a tacit green light from the U.S. and Russia. Turkish police said the suspect confessed to having received the go-ahead for the bombing from Kobani in northern Syria where the YPG is based. Might we see the Syrian conflict reignite in the region? Or will Ankara be tempered by other geopolitical constraints? Only time will tell.

Eastern Express’ guest

Adam Michalski, Research Fellow at the Centre for Eastern Studies, was TVP World’s guest invited to shed more light on the issue.

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