This article was originally published here on Slate.com on Wednesday, June 29, 2016.
Istanbul’s Atatürk International Airport was once a gloriously modern, efficient airport for a country with big ambitions. Over the last decade, it reached well beyond its capacity and became a frustrating slog for anyone accustomed to the hurry-up-and-wait aspect of international travel. After the Justice and Development Party, or AKP, came to power in late 2002 with an expansive foreign policy that included a leading role for Turkey in the Muslim world, the country’s national air carrier, Turkish Airlines, began to spread its wings. The airline added service throughout the Middle East, North Africa, and East Africa. Prior to the emergence of the AKP, it was easy to get a good connection to Cairo via Istanbul, but by the mid-2000s passengers could also fly Turkish from New York City to Erbil, Iraq; Algiers, Algeria; Sanaa, Yemen; and Mogadishu, Somalia.
As difficult as it had become to negotiate the crowds, Atatürk International Airport is actually one of those places where people momentarily abandoned their mutual suspicions and identity politics in the service of the high principles of consumerism. Middle Easterners, Africans, Europeans, Asians, and a smattering of Americans politely maneuver around one another as they shop for Johnny Walker Black, Toblerone chocolate, Mavi Jeans, Dolce and Gabbana sunglasses, and Turkish delight while they wait.
This scene is consistent with the AKP’s worldview and its image of itself. It’s also what makes Turkey so vulnerable to the attacks that took place Tuesday at that very airport, killing 41 people and injuring hundreds.
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