Geneva - The bombings that rocked cities in Turkey, Egypt and Iraq Sunday are stark reminders that terrorism is a growing phenomenon affecting persons of all religions, cultures and races—and thus requires a response marked by unity and solidarity, not division and demonization, says the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor.
“As usual, government officials both in the affected countries and around the world are responding with condemnations, as they should, but also with calls for revenge,” says Pam Bailey, international secretary for Euro-Med Monitor. “However, we have seen what revenge brings us: a never-ending cycle of violence. What is needed is a coordinated strategy that is focused on root causes and a strengthening of civil society. Instead, we are locked in an eye-for-an-eye mentality that in the process reinforces dictatorial regimes that fueled the unrest to begin with.”
In one day on December 11, terrorist attacks hit:
- Turkey, where an offshoot of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) claimed responsibility on Sunday for twin bombings that killed 38 people and wounded 155 outside an Istanbul soccer stadium. In response, Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu said: "Sooner or later we will have our vengeance. This blood will not be left on the ground, no matter what the price, what the cost." Yet one could argue that the Turkish government’s war with the Kurdish nationalist movement, which has killed more than 45,000 people since 1984, has brutally penalized and discriminated against ordinary Kurds as well—depriving it of grassroots support.
- Egypt, where a bomb blast killed at least 25 people and wounded at least another 49 inside a Cairo church near the main Coptic Christian cathedral. No party has yet claimed responsibility. In a statement, President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi warned that the government would be “harsh” in its response. The French and German foreign ministers rushed to affirm their country's support for Egypt in its war against terrorism, despite Sisi’s own track record of draconian reprisals against all dissent. As Mohamad Elmasry, associate professor of media and cultural studies at the Doha Institute for Graduate Studies, observes: "The government has cast an unnecessarily wide 'terrorism' net, carrying out unprecedented human rights violations, including several mass killings, against moderate members of the political opposition."
- Iraq, where a military commander was wounded and one of his bodyguards killed when Islamic State fighters fired mortar shells at his convoy south of Mosul. The Islamic State and other terrorist groups, such as Al-Qaeda, did not come into existence until the United States and its allies invaded Iraq in 2003.
“Just as the solution to massive numbers of refugees seeking asylum is not walls and attack dogs, lasting relief from terrorism will not be found by responding in kind,” says Bailey. “Military attacks, which always also bring with them ‘collateral damage’—the euphemism for murder of innocents, often produce immediate gains, they are invariably short-term.”
Euro-Med Monitor calls for a summit of both government and civil society leaders that is charged with developing an “early-warning” system for identifying societies at risk; immediate and long-term methods to alleviate poverty and other dynamics that feed desperation; and both carrots and sticks to pressure repressive governments into systemic reforms.
“Fighting terrorism with terror has become the standard response,” says Bailey. “It is time to step back and try a different approach. Our future demands it.”