Turkey | Terrorism; Attempts to Improve the Government
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Terrorism; Attempts to Improve the Government
In Nov. 2003, two terrorist attacks rocked Istanbul. On Nov. 17, truck bombs exploded near two synagogues; on Nov. 22, the British Consulate and a British bank were targeted. More than 50 were killed and hundreds were wounded in the attacks; al-Qaeda is believed to be responsible.
In an effort to make itself more attractive for potential EU membership, Turkey has begun revamping some of its repressive laws and policies. In 2003, its parliament passed a law reducing the military's role in political life and offered partial amnesty to PKK members, many of whom have sought refuge in northern Iraq. In 2004, Turkish state television broadcast the first Kurdish language program and the government freed four Kurdish activists from prison. Turkey also abolished the death penalty in all but exceptional cases.
In April 2007, Prime Minister Erdogan nominated Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul, an Islamist, as the ruling party's candidate for president over the objections of the military, which has historically been protective of a secular state. Gul, however, failed to win the necessary two-thirds majority in parliament, and a constitutional court later nullified the vote, citing a lack of a quorum. Many secularists in parliament, who accused Gul of harboring an Islamist agenda, boycotted the vote. Gul withdrew from the race in May. Gul was victorious in the third round of elections in August.
Turkey recalled its ambassador to the United States and threatened to withdraw its support of the war in Iraq in October after the U.S. House Foreign Relations Committee passed a resolution labeling as genocide Turkey's murder of some 1.5 million Armenians during World War I. President George Bush strongly urged members of the committee to vote against the resolution.
Tension between Turkey and Iraq peaked in October, as Kurdish separatists in Iraq, members of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), escalated their attacks into Turkey. In response, Turkey's Parliament voted, 507 to 19, to allow the deployment of troops into northern Iraq. U.S. and Iraqi officials feared a war on another front in Iraq would further destabilize the already fragile country. In December, Turkish fighter jets, with the help of the U.S. military, bombed areas in Dohuk Province in northern Iraq, targeting the (PKK). Turkish troops resumed their attacks on Dohuk Province in February 2008, killing as many as 160 PKK fighters, who claimed to have killed as many Turkish troops.
In January 2008, police arrested 13 ultranationalists, including three former military officers, who were accused of organizing and carrying out political murders. One of the officers, Veli Kucuk, is suspected of running a secret unit within the police force that orchestrated political violence against religious and ethnic minority groups.