Sultanahmet, a week before the attacks.

Sultanahmet, a week before the attacks.

There has been another terrorist attack in Istanbul, this time in the hyper-touristic area of Sultanahmet, site of the Hagia Sophia. So far ten are confirmed dead, 15 wounded. We don’t yet have reliable data about the identities of the victims, but it seems to be split between tourists and Turks.

I was there in Sultahahmet, taking pictures in the snow, not more than a week ago. I could say, “It could easily have been me,” but I won’t because that’s facile and also . . . that’s the point of terrorism.

The main differences between terrorism and war is that terrorism is waged with the intention to cultuvate fear, not casualties. I don’t wish to sound blasé. My heart goes out to the victims and their familites.


We have to maintain some perspective.

Turkey has a population of 75 million. In the past year, less than 200 people have been killed in terrorist attacks. That is 0.0002 percent of the population. On the other hand, 10,000 people die in traffic accidents every year in Turkey, according to the World Health Organization. That’s a whopping 0.01 percent of the population. If you are a tourist in Istanbul, your chances of dying at the hands of a drunk and unscrupulous dolmuş driver far outnumber the likelihood of death-by-terrorist-attack.

The same is true in France. Deaths by bombing, despite the brutal Paris attacks, is still statistically very low.

Why am I saying this? For a few reasons.

The first reason is that these attacks have the potential to cripple the Turkish economy. This year, Turkey has already lost many of its Russian tourists – one of the largest tourist groups that used to come to Turkey. The Turkish economy is hugely dependent on tourism. And the Turkish economy is not an abstract thing. The Turkish economy is people feeding their families.

The second reason is about values. People who live in fear act in fear. They make stupid decisions because they won’t look behind the curtain and face . . . statistics. In the case of both Turkey and France, this could mean voting for a government that promises security at the price of human rights or even at the price of other human lives. Furthermore, these governments will likely not even deliver the promised security. Judging from today’s events, the Turkish ruling party certainly hasn’t, despite winning a parliamentary majority in November.

In fact, each time there is a terrorist attack, the AKP (the Turkish ruling party) imposes a broadcast ban on the Turkish people, leading me and many others to wonder what they are hiding. Are they afraid people will say that their government response to terrorism is ineffectual? Or that people will accuse them on capitalizing on it for their own political goals? Or that they will be reminded that they sold arms to ISIS? Do they just want to make people more afraid by restricting their knowledge?

I don’t have clear answers to these questions but I do know what I would tell anybody engaging the issue of terrorism.

Don’t be afraid. Terror is the point of the attacks, and the best way to fight terrorists is to not give them what they want.

Me? I’m going back to Turkey in the summer, and the worst part of my trip will probably be the quality of the food on Air Canada.

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  1. Baptiste says:

    You might find this interesting: http://markmanson.net/terrorism

    • Kate says:

      Ah, that wonderful moment when you realize somebody said it 100 times better than you ever did. Thanks for the read!

      • Paul says:

        Also this: http://www.aaronsw.com/weblog/hatethenews. Maybe a bit extreme but definitely on-topic with some great points on the issue at hand.

        • Kate says:

          Hmmm, I’m of mixed opinion on this one. On the one hand, when I used to live in the Yukon, I did not read the news and it’s true – I didn’t miss anything that was immediately relevant to my life. I also did not need to know every story to know basically what was happening. It was relaxing to be preoccupied with rotting produce at the grocery store and how tired the constant sun made me.

          I confess also that I feel relieved that the world seems to have quickly forgotten that there were these attacks in Sultanahmet – that it is probably for the best for the Turkish economy, at least. I also agree with him about CNN – it’s funny, even though not very many people read this blog, when I heard about what happened in Sultanahmet I thought ‘Oh, I have to write something about this before everybody else says what I want to say for me.’ Why did I think that? I might have produced something of better quality had I not been so concerned with it being timely.

          On the other hand, sometimes the news does have immediate relevance for our lives, especially in our increasingly globalized world. Reading the news in itself is not necessarily a virtuous activity but it can be as important as anything else if done consciously and with some kind of goal (other than just *seeming* more intellectual) in mind.


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