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The Istanbul Attack And The Cost Of Erdogan's Syria Policy

Suicide attack at Istanbul's busy Ataturk Airport
Suicide attack at Istanbul's busy Ataturk Airport
Ozgur Mumcu

ISTANBUL — When it was time to make a victory speech, all the cities of the Muslim world were being cited, "Not just Turkey, but also Baghdad, Islamabad, Kabul, Beirut, Sarajevo, and Skopje won today," declared Recep Tayyip Erdogan, after being elected the Republic of Turkey"s 12th president back in August 2014. "Damascus, Aleppo, Hama, Homs, Ramallah, Nablus, Gaza and Jerusalem won, too!"

It's the dusting off of the dream of uniting the Muslim countries, the neo-Ottoman fantasy, vowing to pray at the Emevi Mosque in Damascus. Turkey is ill, suffering from a strategic version of the bends disease, having attempted a deep geopolitical dive and unable to decompress. We see it in the way Erdogan forced out his ally, former Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu in May.

What are the symptoms of this decompression sickness? Paralysis, cramps, emotional anomalies, numbness, personality disorder. I think all of the above exist today in Turkey.

After the horrible airport attack in Istanbul, we heard some other cities mentioned instead. Nobody remembered Ramallah, Nablus or Beirut this time. "Make no mistake, for terror groups, there are no differences between Istanbul and London, Ankara and Berlin, Izmir and Chicago, Antalya and Rome," President ErdoÄŸan said after Tuesday's attack.

At his most exalted moment of pride, he chose to list cities from the Islamic map, but after Turkey is attacked, he cites Western cities. Why didn't anyone think to mention the terror-stricken cities of the Muslim world: Baghdad, Fallujah, Raqqa or Rojava. Farewell dear Muslim geography. When in trouble, we prefer to turn to the West, our old platonic love.

We are advised not to make a big deal out of these attacks, even to get used to living like this. But such an adjustment will ultimately lead to an increase of violence and in turning completely into a Middle Eastern country.

Instead, the most effective way of refusing to adjust is to hold the government responsible. Certainly, in a country where 293 people died in 17 bomb attacks since Erdogan's election two years ago, it cannot be said that the government has been successful on this front.

A blind eye

For years, there were warnings regarding the relationships with various factions involved in the Syrian civil war, about increasingly porous borders with Syria, or turning a blind eye to the extremism of Salafist groups. Those who voiced these warnings were labeled traitors, they were sued and imprisoned. The same treatment was reserved for those who said that Kurdish issue was not being handled correctly, that everything was about one individual's political career.

The result is clear. Both foreign and domestic policy are being steered into the rocks. Today, if the terrorist organizations responsible for these attacks can, in fact, use the country as a staging ground and target its cities, it is in part because of the government's earlier political decisions.

Today, there isn't any sign that the current government is able to control anything. In a boat that is sailing full speed towards the rocks, a confused captain keeps berating everyone. The most he can do is to imprison the passengers or replace his sailors.

Though we are not going to hold the government responsible for turning Turkey into a target, the fight against terrorism is being left to luck and individual acts of heroism. The problem is structural. It is now urgent to transform this structure by democratic means.

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My Wife, My Boyfriend — And Grandkids: A Careful Coming Out For China's Gay Seniors

A series of interviews in Wuhan with aging gay men — all currently or formerly married to women — reveals a hidden story of how Chinese LGBTQ culture is gradually emerging from the shadows.

Image of two senior men playing chinese Checkers.

A friendly game of Checkers in Dongcheng, Beijing, China.

Wang Er

WUHAN — " What do you think of that guy sitting there, across from us? He's good looking."

" Then you should go and talk to him."

“ Too bad that I am old..."

Grandpa Shen was born in 1933. He says that for the past 40 years, he's been "repackaged," a Chinese expression for having come out as gay. Before his wife died when he was 50, Grandpa Shen says he was was a "standard" straight Chinese man. After serving in the army, he began working in a factory, and dated many women and evenutually got married.

"Becoming gay is nothing special, I found it very natural." Grandpa Shen says he discovered his homosexuality at the Martyrs' Square in Wuhan, a well-known gay men's gathering place.

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Wuhan used to have different such ways for LGBTQ+ to meet: newspaper columns, riversides, public toilets, bridges and baths to name but a few. With urbanization, many of these locations have disappeared. The transformation of Martyrs' Square into a park has gradually become a place frequented by middle-aged and older gay people in Wuhan, where they play cards and chat and make friends. There are also "comrades" (Chinese slang for gay) from outside the city who come to visit.

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