The barbaric bombing of a peace rally in the Turkish capital of Ankara on Saturday is being blamed on the Islamic State (Isis). But the government of Recep Erdogan is also coming under fire for the massacre, which killed more than 100 people and injured more than 186, now ranks as the deadliest attack of its kind in Turkish history.
The rally on Saturday (10 October) was organised by trade unions, and was supported by pro-Kurdish groups and left-wing parties in a bid to promote peace and call for the end of ongoing violence between the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) and Turkish security forces, especially in south-eastern provinces of the country.
The first explosion hit the crowd just outside of Ankara's main train station, one of the main gathering points for demonstrators. The second explosion, occurring after a very short interval, was very close to the crowd, which was mainly composed of Peoples' Democratic Party's, or HDP, supporters.
Bodies covered with blood and lying in the streets underneath multi-coloured rally flags, while wounded people looked around in shock, left a deep mark on the memory. People who protested the attack were quickly tear-gassed and dispersed with water cannons before the ambulances could reach the area.
The bombing brought to light the widespread perception among Turkish public that the state is incapable of taking even the basic security measures for a rally and is "over-busy" protecting its own security rather than its people. It has only served to strengthen the main fault lines dividing Turkish society from the state.
Servet Kaya (40), an ethnic Kurd who was among those at the rally, was lucky not to be injured by the first explosion that occurred just 50m in front of him. Four of his friends, with whom he had come to Ankara the night before, were killed by the blast. "I accuse the state authorities, whoever they are, of fomenting hatred and violence to regain a majority in the parliament. What I feel now is a total insecurity because my own state turned blind eyes on those who wanted to kill us," Kaya told IBTimes UK.
Government comments immediately after the Ankara blast sparked a strong reaction. In a bid to deflect criticism of its anti-terrorism record, Turkey's prime minister, Ahmet Davutoglu, claimed the suicide bomber in Diyarbakir's Suruc explosion in June had been caught and handed over to the judiciary – a nonsensical claim given that the bomber had been blown to pieces. Likewise, the minister of the interior, Selami Altinok, denied there had been security weaknesses on the ground, despite the claims of witnesses that no body searches were carried out by the police on those entering the rally venue.
However, as Metin Gurcan, a security analyst and former special-forces officer, told IBTimes UK, there is a serious neglect of civilian security for the sake of state security, and such a blast would undoubtedly not have occurred if high-level officials from the government had been present at the gathering. When the minister of justice, Kenan Ipek, smiled in response to questions about demands for his resignation, it was the last straw for many Turkish people who called on the minister "not to smirk, but to give an account".
In an influential and angry speech on the Ankara massacre, shared widely on social media, HDP leader Selahattin Demirtas said: "President and Prime Minister... Every speech you make causes people to hate one another. Know your place. Stop turning us against each other. We are the Turks and Kurds dying everyday." He added: "The state which gets information about the bird that flies and every flap of its wing, was not able to prevent a massacre in the very heart of Ankara."
Currently, there is no claim of responsibility for the terrorist attack, but the Turkish government and pro-government media pointed to strong evidence of Isis-linked terrorists who infiltrated Turkish soil without being intercepted by the security officials. On Sunday (11 October), the government declared three days of national mourning, while police detained 43 suspected Islamic State members in several cities, including Konya, Izmir, Urfa and Antalya, though those detained in Izmir were quickly released on Monday.
Behlul Ozkan, a political scientist from Istanbul's Marmara University, said this blast has one core message for the Turkish government: "You cannot provide security in the heart of your own capital and a few kilometres away from the headquarters of the National Intelligence Agency, although you have been ruling the country single-handedly for 13 years."
According to Ozkan, this would damage people's perception of Erdogan's Justice and Development Party (AKP), and especially its rulers, as they now feel insecure about the government's ability to protect its own citizens. "Let's not forget that the prime minister of the country could not have attended the funerals of people who died in twin blasts because of the social reaction it could face. He cannot meet with the leader of an opposition party, MHP. All this points to an incredible political legitimacy crisis in front of voters' eyes," Ozkan said.
Ozkan said AKP's mistakes keep snowballing, and the reactions show that it has been losing its executive capability, not only within the country, but also along its 900km border with Syria by letting terrorists in so easily. "There is a conscious preference of the Islamist-rooted government for not criticising Islamist ideology of IS and a reluctance [to take] on an armed movement that takes Islam as a reference. There is not a single statement by the government to show their strong determination in fighting IS up to the end," he added.
Ozgur Unluhisarcikli, the director of the German Marshall Fund's office in Ankara, said these and previous terrorist attacks, as a direct result of the government's Syria policy, have a direct and indirect effect on the image of the AKP leadership. "Increasing terrorist activity will also have an impact on the investment climate in Turkey and therefore the government's image. However, due to the polarised nature of politics in Turkey, voters are galvanised around the parties they support, so the impact on voter behaviour will be limited, though not insignificant," Unluhisarcikli said.
Although, Unluhisarcikli said, it is too early to figure out who was behind these terrorist attacks until the criminal investigation is completed, IS has motive, as punishment for Turkey joining the anti-IS coalition. "Moreover by agitating the Kurdish constituency, they could prolong and deepen the conflict between Turkey and the PKK, preventing the PKK from shifting resources to its sister organisation in Syria, Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD), which also happens to be the most credible actor against IS on the ground," he added.
What is certain is that the "golden triangle" of AKP government, composed of good economic indicators, political stability and good relations with its neighbours, is already over. The new landscape instils fear and anxiety in its citizens, regardless of political allegiance, who are more and more inclined to use their democratic voting rights to bring hope and stability to the country.
With elections scheduled for three weeks from now, on 1 November, that could spell bad news for Erdogan.