21:20 GMT17 April 2021
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    Attack on U.S. naval sailors in Istanbul sets the spotlight on a nation the U.S. sees as a close ally but which is finding itself very divided from the U.S. on the issue of Syria.

    Video out of Istanbul shows several people covering their heads with bags and pelting the sailors with paint-filled balloons. Eventually, the naval shipment ran back to the USS Ross and shore leave was cancelled for the rest of the day.

    A Year of Protest

    In recent months, Turkey has been overflown with demonstrations across the country.

    Starting from the 2013 Gezi protests in Istanbul's Taksim Square, which became a symbol of the people's resistance to government policy, demonstrations have grown more massive and more chaotic, carrying with them the spirit of impatience and aggression.

    More recent protests have erupted around the country criticizing Ankara’s inaction regarding ISIL onslaughts on the Kurdish town of Kobane. Most of the demonstrations have been centered in Istanbul and the heavily Kurdish-populated city of Diyarbakir. Violent clashes between police and demonstrators have left dozens injured and more than 20 dead.

    On the other end of the ideological divide, the nationalist Turkey Youth Union (TGB) claimed responsibility for this latest incident, which seemed planned, given the bags and balloons. The attackers shouted “Yankee Go Home” and “Down with U.S. imperialism!”

    It’s just one example of how Turkey sits between a rock and a hard place when it comes to its position in the world, particularly in its relationship with neighboring Europe.

    Going European?

    Despite the recent shift of Turkey's policies away from Europe and back to Ottoman-esque ambitions and leadership in the Middle East, Turkey's long-term aspirations to join the European Union remain the leitmotif of its foreign policy.

    The recent civil strife is not the only reason Turkey is failing to achieve that goal, and meeting European standards has proven difficult. According to International Labor Organization (ILO) statistics, Turkey ranks first in Europe for fatal work accidents. 

    On Monday, workers were killed when an elevator dropped on a construction site in Istanbul’s central Mecidiyekoy neighborhood. Another accident happened on October 31 near the city of Isparta when a passenger bus drove off the road and flipped, causing 18 deaths and 30 injuries. According to the Turkish news agency BirGun, the accident occurred because the bus was loaded over capacity.

    Hundreds rallied in Istanbul to express their outrage at the poor safety measures. 

    Turkey’s future is clearly in question. Showing an inability to deal with being gripped between two continents — both geographically and politically — President Tayyip Erdogan is failing to fulfill Turkey's long-term ambitions, both in Europe and in the Middle East.

     

    Contributed by Olga Malik

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