Geopolitics

After Ankara: Terrorism, Responsibility And Erdogan’s Short Memory

Turkish President Erdogan was quick to blame U.S. and French leaders after terror attacks struck those countries, but has failed to take responsibility for allowing the deadly Ankara attacks to occur.

Turkish President Erdogan (2nd left) at a memorial in front of Ankara's train station
Gonul Tol

ANKARA â€" After three Muslim students were murdered last February in North Carolina, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had these words for American President Barack Obama:

“I call out to Mr. Obama; I ask: Where are you, Mr. President?" he asked, also singling out U.S. Vice President Joe Biden and Secretary of State John Kerry. "We, the politicians, are responsible of the murders committed in our country. Because, when the public votes for you, they vote for you to provide safety for their life, safety for their property. If you stay silent in the face of such an event, the world will always be silent towards you, too.”

Also, after last January's deadly attacks in at the Paris-based magazine Charlie Hebdo, Erdogan singled out the French intelligence services: “These people served 16 or 17 months in your prisons. Why didn't you follow these people? Isn't your intelligence working?”

Now, Turkey's capital has experienced the deadliest terrorist attack in the history of the republic; 95 people died, hundreds were wounded. The attack took place four kilometers away from the parliament and three kilometers away from the National Intelligence Agency.

The rally targeted by the attack had been promoted in the media and social media for weeks. Moreover, Turkey has experienced similar attacks in the last months: 32 people died in a bombing in Suruc near the Syrian border, and four died during an attack in Diyarbakir.

Erdogan's ally with the Justice and Development Party (AKP), Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu lectures the West on morality and democracy every chance he has. And yet now, the people running our country not only fail to take responsiblity, but blame the opposition, citing the fact that no governing coalition could be formed after last June's election.

“This government is not an AKP government, it is an election government,” Davutoglu said in the statement after the attack in Ankara. “I wish we could have faced the difficulties with a national unity government. I do not want to start a political polemic but (the opposition) would have been a great support against terror if they had joined this government.”

We are the government. When? Only when hiring hundreds of civil servants since the elections and going after journalists, columnists, academicians, dissident business leaders. But when put to answer for the deaths of 95 people in the center of the capital, no, then it is an "election government."

Tracking insults

We must ask whether there was a failure in security. The bloodiest attack in the history of the Turkish republic came from an organization that the government has not perceived as a threat and never dealt with the seriousness it warranted.

European Union member countries warned their embassies in Ankara that they expected an ISIS attack in Ankara before the Nov. 1 elections. Many embassies increased security measures afterward.

But our government looks for potential bombers elsewhere, even though their own investigators said the evidence points to the Islamic State.

What is a failure in security, if not this?

The judiciary, police, intelligence of this country are all busy keeping track of insults made to Erdogan and his family, columns and messages on social media, while murderers roam free in Diyarbakir, Hatay, Ankara, Mersin and Adana, killing the children of Turkey.

Let us end by redirecting President Erdogan's words back at himself: "Why didn't you follow these people? Isn't your intelligence working? ... We, the politicians, are responsible of the murders committed in our country. Because, when the public votes for you, they vote for you to provide safety for their life, safety for their property. If you stay silent in the face of such an event, the world will always be silent towards you, too.”

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Society

Why Chinese Cities Waste Millions On Vanity Building Projects

The so-called "White Elephants," or massive building projects that go unused, keep going up across China as local officials mix vanity and a misdirected attempt to attract business and tourists. A perfect example the 58-meter, $230 million statue of Guan Yu, a beloved military figure from the Third Century, that nobody seems interested in visiting.

Statue of Guan Yu in Jingzhou Park, China

Chen Zhe


BEIJING — The Chinese Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development recently ordered the relocation of a giant statue in Jingzhou, in the central province of Hubei. The 58-meter, 1,200-ton statue depicts Guan Yu, a widely worshipped military figure from the Eastern Han Dynasty in the Third century A.D.

The government said it ordered the removal because the towering presence "ruins the character and culture of Jingzhou as a historic city," and is "vain and wasteful." The relocation project wound up costing the taxpayers approximately ¥300 million ($46 million).

Huge monuments as "intellectual property" for a city

In recent years local authorities in China have often raced to create what is euphemistically dubbed IP (intellectual property), in the form of a signature building in their city. But by now, we have often seen negative consequences of such projects, which evolved from luxurious government offices to skyscrapers for businesses and residences. And now, it is the construction of cultural landmarks. Some of these "white elephant" projects, even if they reach the scale of the Guan Yu statue, or do not necessarily violate any regulations, are a real problem for society.

It doesn't take much to be able to differentiate between a project constructed to score political points and a project destined for the people's benefit. You can see right away when construction projects neglect the physical conditions of their location. The over the top government buildings, which for numerous years mushroomed in many corners of China, even in the poorest regional cities, are the most obvious examples.

Homebuyers looking at models of apartment buildings in Shanghai, China — Photo: Imaginechina/ZUMA

Guan Yu transformed into White Elephant

A project truly catering to people's benefit would address their most urgent needs and would be systematically conceived of and designed to play a practical role. Unfortunately, due to a dearth of true creativity, too many cities' expression of their rich cultural heritage is reduced to just building peculiar cultural landmarks. The statue of Guan Yu in Jingzhou is a perfect example.

Long ago Jinzhou was a strategic hub linking the North and the South of China. But its development has lagged behind coastal cities since the launch of economic reform a generation ago.

This is why the city's policymakers came up with the idea of using the place's most popular and glorified personality, Guan Yu (who some refer to as Guan Gong). He is portrayed in the 14th-century Chinese classic "The Romance of the Three Kingdoms" as a righteous and loyal warrior. With the aim of luring tourists, the city leaders decided to use him to create the city's core attraction, their own IP.

Opened in June 2016, the park hosting the statue comprises a surface of 228 acres. In total it cost ¥1.5 billion ($232 million) to build; the statue alone was ¥173 million ($27 million). Alas, since the park opened its doors more than four years ago, the revenue to date is a mere ¥13 million ($2 million). This was definitely not a cost-effective investment and obviously functions neither as a city icon nor a cultural tourism brand as the city authorities had hoped.

China's blind pursuit of skyscrapers

Some may point out the many landmarks hyped on social media precisely because they are peculiar, big or even ugly. However, this kind of attention will not last and is definitely not a responsible or sustainable concept. There is surely no lack of local politicians who will contend for attention by coming up with huge, strange constructions. For those who can't find a representative figure, why not build a 40-meter tall potato in Dingxi, Gansu Province, a 50-meter peony in Luoyang, Shanxi Province, and maybe a 60-meter green onion in Zhangqiu, Shandong Province?

It is to stop this blind pursuit of skyscrapers and useless buildings that, early this month, the Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development issued a new regulation to avoid local authorities' deviation from people's real necessities, ridiculous wasted costs and over-consumption of energy.

I hope those responsible for the creation of a city's attractiveness will not simply go for visual impact, but instead create something that inspires people's intelligence, sustains admiration and keeps them coming back for more.

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