By Patricia H. Kushlis
On February 1, Ecevit Sanli, a Turkish suicide bomber, blew himself up at the entry to the US Embassy compound in Ankara. He also murdered a Turkish guard and wounded several other people who happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time. Sanli turned out to belong to a far left Turkish organization – called the Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party-Front - which first appeared in the 1970s when left and right political extremes engaged one another in pitched gun-battles on city streets.
At that time, Turkey’s parliamentary government was weakening by the day until September 1980 when the country's generals stepped in and stopped the violence that was wreaking havoc on the population. Life for normal citizens had been difficult enough during the preceding years so that most welcomed a return to stability imposed by the country’s historically well respected military: gas lines had extended for blocks – even coffee was in short supply - the internecine violence designed to destabilize the regime had just worsened the already bad situation. Locally grown produce was the mainstay sold in the markets. The Turkish lira had become worthless in the international marketplace as a result of the political instability, domestic unrest and weak economy.
That this small illegal terrorist organization had gone through several reincarnations and name changes since its beginnings in the 1970s and Sanli had previously served time in jail for committing acts of terrorism makes one wonder about its reappearance. This was not a half-crazed man operating alone. Nor was Sanli an Islamic militant. Far from it. The group had introduced suicide bombers to its repertoire about ten years ago. So what were Sanli’s motives, what was the purpose of the attack and who was the instigator lurking in the shadows?
From the scanty evidence thus far, it’s pretty clear that Sanli was dispatched on his last mission by someone looking to publicize a cause, to embarrass or frighten the Turkish government or the US – a NATO ally which had recently brought Patriot antimissile systems into country’s south to help protect the Turks and the Syrian refugees flowing across the border from the civil war raging next door.
Or could the bombing have been to register negative reaction to the Turkish government’s recent arrests of nearly 100 people accused of having ties to the outlawed Revolutionary People’s Liberation Front and in protest of the government’s harsh anti-terrorism laws? What kind of message was attached to this human detonator? Was the reason for his actions purely home grown – or not?
Conspiracy theories and spy stories
Speculation, of course, covers the gamut. Turkey is part of the Middle East where conspiracy theories run rampant and spy stories have natural homes but the real question is who or which country, countries or groups were behind this recent incident and why. Terrorism of this sort comes cheaply – particularly when the individual in question is deranged to begin with. But what exactly does a one-off suicide of this sort represent in the larger picture of Turkish or Middle Eastern politics in 2013?