Terrorizing history

Another month, another terrorist attack in Istanbul: though this time it was serious.

Nabil Fadli, a 28-year-old ISIL militant of Syrian origin who was born in Saudi Arabia in 1988, blew himself up after blending into a tourist group of 33 German citizens on a visit to the Obelisk of Theodosius in Sultanahmet Square near the Blue Mosque in the morning hours of Jan. 12 when the popular square was relatively less crowded compared to the rest of the day.

Tourist sites including the Hagia Sophia and the nearby Basilica Cistern were closed by the Istanbul Governor’s Office following the attack.
The symbolism here is awfully clear. Sultanahmet Square is the cultural hub of the city, but look not only at where Fadli detonated but where he didn't. The Obelisk of Theodosius was originally built aroud 1450BC and transported to Constantinople in the fourth century to be part of the now-demolished Hippodrome. It's located directly in front of another popular tourist location: the Blue Mosque. Nearby is the famed Hagia Sophia (a former mosque). It certainly isn't a coincidence that the attack took place in front of but far enough to not damage or distress a Muslim place of worship. The Obelisk is also along the side of the Blue Mosque used for tourists but nor worshippers, if that's of any relevance.

CNN is asking if Turkey's attacks on ISIS are coming home to roost rather than the most dangerous question...with all respect to the tourists (mostly German) who were killed and injured, what happens with ISIL radicals with suicide vests stop attacking people and start destroying monuments?

It's not like ISIS doesn't love destroying monuments: they've famously gone full Taliban of late, blowing up various sites including the Arch of Trumph, Temple of Bel, and the Tower of Elahbel. They don't even have to make a horrible choice between destroying history and raising the body count: they can do them both at the same time.

The logistics of tying captives to pillars in Montreal may not yet be within their grasp (but give it time!), though thanks to tourism they don't have to bring out the ropes. We are very happy to provide human targets inside historical sites.

Sultanahmet Square is, frankly speaking, not where you go to maximize your death toll in Istanbul. Even when it's busy, it's mostly full of Australian tourists and Italian tour buses. The number of people crammed into Sultanahmet Square or even the nearby tram is fairly minimal. If you want to kill a lot of people, you detonate your suicide vest in the busy Istiklal Caddesi (street) near Taksim Square -- and yes, this is how busy it is all the time -- and accept that a few non-tourists will be killed in the wake. You could put some real fear into people there.

And yet instead Nabil Fadli blew himself up in front of a Roman column in front of western visitors. His target was the visitors. Pray that his successor's target isn't the column.