Following two bombings in Istanbul that killed dozens of people over the weekend, Turkey has struck back at the group which claimed responsibility for the attacks. The Kurdish Freedom Hawks, a breakaway faction of the PKK (Kurdistan Workers Party) released a statement claiming responsibility, yet also saying that the Turkish people were not the target of the bombs. Nevertheless, Turkey struck back hard yesterday with airstrikes against 12 PKK targets in northern Iraq and the arrest of over 200 members of Kurdish political parties on Sunday and Monday. The state-run Anadolu news service reported there were 235 arrests in 11 cities across Turkey.
Saturday’s bombings outside of a soccer stadium in Istanbul claimed the lives of 44 people and wounded over 150 others. 39 of the victims were police officers. The bombings have, predictably, raised anger and a nationalistic fervor in Turkey. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will surely use the attack as a reason to push a bill expanding his powers through the parliament. If passed, the act will introduce an executive presidency similar to that of the United States to Turkey. Erdogan and his supporters claim it will help make the government more efficient, while his opponents are concerned it could potentially lead to Turkey becoming a one-party state.
Expressing concern about Erdogan’s strengthening power now might be a case of too little, too late. He already holds near-dictatorial powers and is shifting Turkey towards an authoritarian state since the attempted coup in July. The government and civil services have been purged of real and perceived anti-Erdogan sentiment. Free media is precariously close to extinction or, at the very least, intimidated into submission. When all is said and done, Erdogan will have reshaped Turkish politics and society into something few observers believed would ever be possible. With the new shape of Turkey will come the striking reality that there is no one left to stop Erdogan from doing whatever he wishes.