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November 20, 2003

Attacks Bolster Turks’ Will to Fight Evil

http://www.jewishjournal.com/opinion/article/attacks_bolster_turks_will_to_fight_evil_20031121

Following the dastardly attacks in Istanbul targeting Turkish Jews in two synagogues on Nov. 15 that left 25 innocent people dead and several hundred Turkish Jews and Muslims severely injured (see Cover Story, p. 18), I was asked what this all means for Turkey.

It means sadness and sorrow for the lost lives and the loved ones left behind; it certainly means outrage; but it also means determination to fight against this greatest evil of terrorism. It is a terrorism that has no boundaries, that makes no distinction, but is hungry for creating fear and intimidation, and it has no respect for the central and sacred pillars of all universal principles -- respect for life and the right to live.

The terror that took place last Saturday in my country should not be classified as an act against a certain group, people, religion or against political and international allies of Turkey. Rather, it should be considered an act against humanity and should be treated as terrorism, plain and simple.

Unfortunately, terrorism is not new for Turkey. For so many years, even before the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States, Turkey repeatedly tried to emphasize the importance of fighting against this most dangerous disease.

In the Middle East, Turkey and Israel are two countries that unfortunately have similar experiences with the scourge of international terrorism. Turks and Israelis understand best how it feels to be victims of terrorism and how important it is not to give up on the fight against it.

Suicide bombers kill Israelis just because they are sitting at a cafe, going to school by bus or celebrating a Jewish holiday. And Turks understand what it means to lose loved ones for nothing. Turkey lost almost 40,000 lives to terrorism over 15 years in the '80s and '90s and finally emerged victorious.

But at what cost? The fate of all these innocent victims -- children, women, men, teachers, civil servants and young soldiers -- felled by terrorists only strengthened our determination to defy terror. Consequently, this last cowardly act will also receive the appropriate response and the hand of justice.

Turkey and Israel are the two democracies in an otherwise extremely volatile and unstable region. Both of our democracies are relatively new but sound.

Last month Turkey celebrated the 80th anniversary of the foundation of the republic by our great leader, Kemal Atatürk. Under the republic, the Turkish people take pride in their democracy and secular way of life. The Turkish republic is a living testimony to the compatibility of democracy and a progressive way of life -- with a Muslim majority within a civilization that is able to combine the West and the East.

Turkey plays a strategic role at the crossroads of ancient civilizations, different regions and continents. One of Turkey's goals is to help bridge the gap between diverse cultures and religions.

For centuries, Turkey has enjoyed a richness of diverse cultures and religions living side by side, a testimony of peaceful coexistence and tolerance. The bombings of the synagogues are horrific attacks that undermine this harmony and peace.

But we will not give up. Such events will only strengthen our resolve to ensure that Turkey remains a place where people coexist, regardless of cultural, religious or linguistic background.

What does this latest bombing mean for Americans? Before Sept. 11, 2001, I might have had a more complicated and longer answer. But in the post-Sept. 11 world, it does not need much explanation to understand how it feels when, for no good reason and totally unjustifiably, your people die as a result of cowardly terrorist attacks.

This brings us to the following conclusion: The fight against terrorism must be an international campaign. It is not a problem of one single country or a region; it is the worst problem facing the world.

Turkey, Israel and the United States have much in common: We all embrace democracy, but are losing so many victims to terrorism. When the core values of our societies are challenged, we must stand together.

When all the peace-loving countries -- irrespective of whether they have experienced terror on their soil or not -- unite to fight collectively against this scourge, then international terrorism can be exterminated from the face of the earth for good.



Engin Ansay, consul general of Turkey in Los Angeles, will speak at Sephardic Temple Tifereth Israel on Saturday, Nov. 22, 11 a.m.

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