The Archbishop of Canterbury has urged the international community to pray for all those whose lives have been affected by the terrorist shootings and bombings at Istanbul’s Ataturk Airport on Tuesday, in which 36 people were killed and more than 140 injured.
Archbishop Welby said on Twitter: “Our hearts cry out in prayer for the victims and families of the terrible attack in Istanbul. In prayer and faith we also commit to resisting the evil of violence and religious extremism.”
International condemnation of the attack was led by the secretary-general of the UN, Ban Ki-moon, who, through his spokesperson, hoped that “the perpetrators of this crime will be identified and brought to justice.” He also expressed his “deepest sympathy and condolences to the families of the victims and the government and people of Turkey”.
Over the past 18 months, about 20 major terrorism incidents have occurred in Turkey – in Istanbul and the capital, Ankara, as well as in towns in the east of the country. The violence stems largely from Turkey’s involvement in the Syria and Iraq crises, and the resumption of the conflict with Kurdish separatists. The country is being targeted by at least two ruthless enemies: Islamic State (IS) and the armed Kurdish group, the PKK. It is thought that the suicide bombers who targeted Istanbul airport this week belonged to IS.
While the latest attack has revealed Turkey’s vulnerability to acts of terrorism, it is likely to increase hatred for IS among the global Islamic community. Here, Muslims were carrying out a suicide mission, and killing civilians at random, in a Muslim country during the sacred fasting month of Ramadan. Social media in the hours after the Istanbul airport violence were inundated with denunciations of IS for its claims to be acting in the name of Islam.
Turkey’s foreign policy, directed by the President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has resulted in deteriorating relations not only with the regime in Syria, but also with several other governments in the region and beyond. The wave of terror attacks have served to emphasise the country’s isolation. In a move to end this, Mr Erdogan this week publicly ended Turkey’s dispute with Israel, which started when Israeli security forces stormed a boat heading for Gaza in 2010. He also apologised to Moscow for the shooting down of a Russian jet last November. But Turkey is likely to go on paying a price for its previous policy of turning a blind eye to Islamic jihadists crossing the border into Syria and for allowing the ceasefire with the PKK to break down.
Furthermore, the spate of bombings over recent months is severely damaging Turkey’s tourism industry, which in the long term could cause economic hardship among Turks, thus threatening social stability. Because of all these factors, the likelihood is that Turkey will be more enthusiastic than in the past to join international efforts to contain and defeat terrorism.