Why Turkey hasn’t been getting its share of sympathies following the deadly terror attack on a nightclub in Istanbul by an Islamic State (IS) inspired gunman sent the social media into overdrive in the wake of the New Year’s Eve assault.

Similar attacks earlier last year in Belgium and France evoked sympathies world over, with many social media users even changing the cover of their Facebook profiles to colours of the French flag to express solidarity with the victim country. In case of Turkey, such shows of collective support, both on social media and by world leaders, are nearly absent.

Turkey-watchers in the West pin the blame on Turkey’s hardline president Recep Tayyep Erdogan for the lack of popular pathos terrorist attacks on the Eurasian country evoke. Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) came to power in 2002,and the strongman has been in control of the Turkish politics since. In this while, Erdogan has been accused of pandering to Islamists to consolidate power. Schooled in an Islamic school and having been booked for inciting religious violence before he found the AKP, Erdogan’s pushing of an Islamist agenda in the Turkish society was largely consistent with his upbringing and early political leanings.

 

(Source: Twitter/Professor Howard Eissenstat)

In foreign policy, Turkey under Erdogan has often been accused of playing the “double-game” in the Syrian civil war, as the country allowed foreign fighters bound for Islamic state strongholds in Syria to pass through its border even as it joined Western efforts to curb the rise of the terrorist organisation. Turkey has also been accused of helping with arms Islamists from other radical groups fighting Syrian President Bashar-al Assad’s forces.

Over the years, Ankara has got itself involved in a ‘two-front’ terrorist war, from the Islamic State on one side and from Kurdish terrorist organisations from within Turkey on the other. In the process, it earned the wrath of both the terror groups who have carried out terrorist attacks on its soil. The terrorist attack on a football stadium in Istanbul in December was blamed on the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which has been fighting Ankara for greater political autonomy, if not a homeland, for the Kurdish people in Turkey.

However, it is the increasing radicalisation of Turkey’s society under an ever more authoritarian Erdogan that has laid a perfect breeding ground for Islamist radicalism. The Islamic State last year issued a magazine in Turkish language, which observers believe was to tap into the increasing radical Turkish society to recruit fighters.

A failed coup attempt by some rogue security officers last year prompted a harsh crackdown on dissenters by Erdogan, which his critics say he is using to silence opposition altogether.

Turkey’s press has been regulated to the extent that it is not allowed to be critical of the government at all. According to some Twitter users, journalists in Turkey were asked by the government just to report official government statements in the wake of the nightclub attack in Istanbul, a sign of an administration nervous about having a public debate on radicalism.

Public display of western symbols and celebrating events associated with the West evoke critical reactions of Islamist preachers, who have seen their influence increase under Erdogan. Some people on Twitter pointed out that there were even appeals issued against celebrating New Year’s Eve, which some hardcore preachers saw as against Islamic values.

Still wondering why Turkey doesn’t have sympathizers in the West. Well, the answer is Erdogan.

(Source: Twitter/ Footage of the alleged Istanbul nightclub attacker as he gets his passport checked on entering Turkey)