Op/Ed: Why Are We Silent on Turkey?

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Obama was criticized massively by the press and politicians alike for skipping out on the unity rally in Paris after the attack on satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo. Twelve people died in that attack. No one’s expected him to go to Turkey, though.

The latest string of terrorist attacks in Paris have killed nearly 130 people and the recent attack in Brussels killed 30. The U.S. stood in solidarity with these countries. When Istanbul’s Ataturk Airport was attacked Tuesday, 41 were killed and another estimated 240 were injured. Our response? Not much.

A handful of countries responded with moments of silence, official statements, or lighting of buildings in Turkish flag colors. This time around, the Empire State building and World Trade Center remained dark (The WTC was lit in French and Belgium’s colors after their attacks).

This is an excerpt from a Facebook post by James Taylor that went viral:

It is very easy to look at terror attacks that happen in London, in New York, in Paris and feel pain and sadness for those victims, so why is it not the same for Ankara? Is it because you just don't realise that Ankara is no different from any of these cities? Is it because you think that Turkey is a predominantly Muslim country, like Syria, like Iraq, like countries that are in a state of civil war, so therefore it must be the same and because you don't care about those ones, then why should you care about Turkey? If you don't believe that these attacks in Ankara affect you, or you can't feel the same pain you felt during the Paris or London attacks, then maybe you should stop to think why, why is it that you feel like that. Turkey is an amazing country with truly wonderful people. I have never felt more welcome, more happy, more safe than I do here.

Ankara is my home, it has been for the last 18 months, and it will continue to be my home.

You were Charlie, you were Paris. Will you be Ankara?

Amazingly, even prominent news sites have stayed relatively silent on the airport attack and recent terrorist attacks in Baghdad and other areas.

Istanbul’s Ataturk Airport is one of the world’s busiest airports. The vast majority of victims were Muslims and they were most likely targeted by ISIS. Are we quiet because we’ve become accustomed to violence in this part of the world? Are we silent because the victims aren’t white?

Pope Francis led a moment of silent prayer for the victims of the airport bombing. “May the Lord convert the hearts of the violent, and sustain our feet on the way of peace,” he said.  

Obama expressed that he was “heartbroken” over the attacks and was in contact with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to offer his support. He said, “I’m confident that we can and we will defeat those who offer only death and destruction, and we will always remember, even as there are those trying to divide us, that we are stronger when we come together and work towards a better world together.”

It has been nearly a week since the airport bombing. In just the past year, Turkey has been struck with over 14 major attacks, losing nearly 300 people. Although ISIS has not claimed responsibility, they have been connected to at least a third of these attacks. The attacks primarily target civilians.

Donald Trump responded via Twitter: “Yet another terrorist attack, this time in Turkey. Will the world ever realize what is going on? So sad.” Just a moment later, he tweeted, “We must do everything possible to keep this horrible terrorism outside the United States.” With these tweets, Trump expressed sorrow for Turkey but also used it to emphasize his America First policy.

Clinton’s Twitter was silent, but she did post to Facebook:

Terrorists have struck again in the heart of one of our NATO allies—and all Americans stand united with the people of Turkey against this campaign of hatred and violence. Already, stories of heroism on the part of Turkish police are emerging, as their quick actions to confront the suspects may have prevented an even worse tragedy. Today’s attack in Istanbul only strengthens our resolve to defeat the forces of terrorism and radical jihadism around the world. And it reminds us that the United States cannot retreat. We must deepen our cooperation with our allies and partners in the Middle East and Europe to take on this threat. Such cooperation is essential to protecting the homeland and keeping our country safe. Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims, their families, and the Turkish people.

Although Trump and Clinton have commented on the Istanbul attack online, both have yet to mention it in person. Although we have responded to the tragedy on some level, news coverage is low. There’s no Facebook profile picture filter to express support for Turkey, there’s no hashtag campaign like #JeSuisCharlie. Turkey deserves American support just as much as any other country negatively affected by terrorists like ISIS. We need to step up our support. 

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