This article was written by IWP alumnus Brandon Weichert (’16).
On June 28, 2016 shots were fired into a crowd of unsuspecting travelers at Istanbul’s Ataturk International Airport, followed by the detonation of suicide bomb vests. Thus far, at least 36 people are dead and 150 or more injured. Despite the fact that people are unsure as to whether the attack was conducted by the Islamic State (though, IS tends to attack soft targets like airports) or the Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK), the fact is that Turkey’s foreign policy has played a significant role in this horrific terrorist attack. What follows is an assessment of Turkish policy toward the Middle East, its relationship with the Kurds, and the state of the campaign against the Islamic State. It is important to understand that this piece is not seeking to blame anyone other than the perpetrators of the attack (whether it be IS or the PKK or another, as yet, unnamed group), this piece is to provide you, the reader, with some context as to why such a heinous act has occurred. Also, unfortunately, it is to alert you that more heinous acts, such as this attack, may soon follow.
The Decline of the Ottoman Empire
Much of the modern history of the Middle East (as well as Northern Africa) has been defined by the events that followed the First World War. In World War I, the Ottoman Empire, the Caliphate that spanned most of the Muslim world and was ruled from modern day Turkey, collapsed. The Ottoman Empire had long been considered the “sick man of Europe,” and most assumed that it was destined to fail. Yet, for various political reasons, the European powers managed to help the storied Islamic empire survive and limp on for over a century longer than it should have survived.
That is, until the First World War.
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