Terror attacks—like the one on the Reina nightclub—shock. But the authorities are truly chillingby Alev Scott / January 18, 2017 / Leave a comment
Reina evoked hedonism. The club was a caricature of high Istanbul living, of decadence divorced from reality. Isolated on a piece of prime real estate on the European bank of the Bosphorus, the club had a kind of naked showiness—water taxis ferried the super rich to its doors. Reina was not representative of Turkey’s “secular elite” but of something more stereotypically, lavishly “Western.”
The terrorist who attacked it at New Year turned everything on its head—the club became a place in the firing line; its spectacular position on the Bosphorus became a disaster movie scene, as people leapt into the sea to escape. Islamic State (IS) claimed the attack that killed 39, sending a vicious message not only to secular Turks, but also to the religious president that allows such places to exist: “We hate you all.”
For IS fanatics, Turkey is almost worse than the West, a nation of fake Muslims. Yet there are distinctly fundamentalist tones in the statements of the Diyanet, Turkey’s Presidency of Religious Affairs, which regularly issues fatwas against activities including Christmas and New Year celebrations. Since the Reina attack, a high-profile imam has called a fatwa against chess, calling it more evil than gambling. Should security be introduced at chess tournaments? We find ourselves in an absurd but dangerous position when respected religious figures say things that chime with—if not inspire—the jihadis.
For 18 months, Turkey has been a blur of terrorism. It is often impossible to pick out cause and effect, and the media exploits the resulting confusion. The basic chronology is this: in the general election of June 2015, Recep Tayyip Erdog˘an’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) lost its ruling majority for the first time in 13 years. Five months later, it regained it in a snap election fought amid escalating fighting with Kurdish separatists. In 2016, Turkish troops entered the war in Syria, following years of covert, and not-so covert, support for rebels. After a failed coup in July, opposition leaders, journalists and random members of the public were jailed.
A terrible price is being paid for all this. The backlash against Kurdish and jihadi attacks has allowed Erdog˘an to play on voters’ fear, and this has altered the fabric of Turkey’s society as well as its political future. The atmosphere in Istanbul—once a…