Turkey vs. terrorism

The attempted assassination of the Pope not only brings to the fore the issue of terrorism. It underscores the magnitude of the problem for one nation in particular -- Turkey.The man accused of shooting the Pontiff is Mehmet Ali Agca, a militant Turkish terrorist who had already been convicted of murdering a prominent Turkish editor and who, when he escaped military prison, left behind a letter threatening the life of Pope John Paul if he visited Turkey. Like the actions of many terrorists, Agca's rhetoric and behavior reflect an irrational extremism.

We bring this up because it may arouse a bit more understanding for the generals who now rule Turkey and who are trying to bring rampant terrorism -- from the right and the left -- under control. The West Europeans, while very supportive of the present military leadership in Ankara, nonetheless have been urging it to speed the restoration of democratic freedoms to Turkey. Delegations of all kinds have been visiting Turkey asking questions about alleged torture and other harsh measures, and Turkey's membership in the Council of Europe has been challenged.

There surely is no quarreling with the West European effort to nudge the land of Kemal Ataturk back to representative democracy. This is the desired objective, and it is important that it be kept alive. Indeed the generals themselves remain committed to it once they have ended the widespread political terrorism, effected political changes to assure a more viable government, and stabilized the economy. Our impression is that Gen. Kenan Evren, leader of the junta, and his military colleagues have no desire to hang on to power. They merely want to make sure that, after they step aside, they will not be asked to take over again at some future point because of a resurgence of anarchy. The fanatical assault on the Pope g ives an idea of what they are up against.

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