REINA CLUB ATTACK

upa-admin 02 Ocak 2017 1.609 Okunma 0
REINA CLUB ATTACK

As the clocks rolled over into the new year, people all around the world were filled with the sign of “hope” that the year of 2017 would be a year where peace, justice and joy would be its headlines. However, the celebrations of the new year and the ever dwindling sign of hope was snatched away just roughly over an hour into 2017 in the city of Istanbul. Yes, Istanbul became the first victim of an terrorist attack in the year of 2017, and unfortunately it most likely won’t be the last time where Istanbul and Turkey will be at the headlines in a terrorist attack in 2017.

In this instance, the designated place of the attack was the Reina, a famous nightclub located at one of the hearts of Istanbul in Ortakoy. The nightclub is located on the European-side of the Bosphorus on looking towards the Asian-side of Istanbul. The nightclub is a popular destination among famous people, tourists and Turkish people. The attack saw to the death of at least 39 people, Turkey’s interior minister says, and at least 69 people have been identified as injured.[1] Currently, eleven Turks, seven Saudi Arabians, three Iraqis, two Lebaneses, two Tunisians, two Indians, a Kuwaiti, a Syrian and an Israeli are among the dead. A Belgian citizen who is originally Turkish and a Canadian-Iraqi were also killed, he said. The Jordanian Foreign Ministry said three of its citizens were killed.[2]

Moreover, there were reportedly as many as 700 people in the nightclub at the time of the attack, some of whom jumped into the water to escape.[3] Officials in Istanbul were on high guard as where other big cities all around the world, however this attack still was carried out. It was noted that Istanbul was already on high alert with some 17,000 police officers on duty in the city, following a string of terror attacks in recent months.[4] An alternate news source in HaberTurk stated that in Ankara there were just fewer than 6000 assigned police officers on new year’s night.[5] When we draw the comparison between the two populated cities of Turkey, it goes to show that Istanbul should have employed far more police officers than they had originally had and maybe if they had done so maybe this incident could have been avoided.

Just after the attacks, the Turkish government imposed a temporary media blackout on local coverage of the attack, banning the publication or broadcast of anything that could cause “fear in the public, panic and disorder and which may serve the aims of terrorist organisations”.[6] This ban has currently been revaluated and some information on the event has started to surface. While the perpetrator has not yet been identified and no group has claimed responsibility, authorities called it an “act of terror”.[7] Similarly, the attack seemed similar to what happened at the Bataclan, a Paris concert hall that was attacked by gunmen in 2015. “This is an attack on the Western lifestyle. This is an attack on Turkey’s secular, urban way of living. And this will simply fuel the ongoing cultural clashes, the ongoing polarization in Turkey”, Aykan Erdemir, a former member of the Turkish Parliament said.[8] However, even though Erdemir’s claims have been one of the most popular responses to the causation of attacks in Turkey, it still does not justify a possible solution to the problem at hand.

Regional Vantage Point: A Tale of Two Fights

Within this portion of the analysis, I will look at the existent domestic pressure and the possible causation of the attack. As of now, there has not been a clear identification of the suspects and or which group or organization they may be affiliated with. Nonetheless, there are several things to note on; the first is that the assailant left his weapon on site before fleeing the scene  and secondly, any rumor about the assailants custom choice in being disguised as ‘Santa Claus’ has been denied and set to rest by Prime Minister Binali Yildirim. So, there isn’t any Western cultural correlation or relation in this attack; however, this still does not eliminate other local/regional extremist groups being involved in this case.

The heading of this subsection points to the remarks made by Metin Gurcan, an Istanbul-based analyst, that Turkey is currently engaged with two different fights. The first is fight against PKK, the secular leftist Kurdish anti-nationalist armed group, now a state actor and also there offshoot in Kurdistan Freedom Falcons (TAK), and the second fight is the fight against so-called Islamic State (IS).[9] One of the most important remarks on this issue is which fight should Turkey prioritise; where should Turkey place majority of its time and resources, and how can they come to defeat or overcome these obstacles. Because the people who died were mainly civilians, the finger of blame for this attack is being pointed at IS. But the motive for the attack is not yet clear and the gunman has not been apprehended.[10]

Furthermore, Turkey faces multiple security threats including spillover from the war in neighboring Syria; as its cross-border campaign against the Islamic State, it is fighting Kurdish militants in its own southeast borders.[11] Eventhough Turkey currently holds the second largest military in NATO alliance, it has time and time again faced difficulty fighting both the PKK and IS simultaneously. There has been consistent regional pressure inflicted by IS and international pressure (Russia and who to take out in the Syrian civil war). Nonetheless, the major costs of its actions have been paid by the military/police personal and by the local civilians. The attack of Reina nightclub marked the first terror attack on Turkish soil in the calendar year of 2017. Thus, the more Turkey gets involved in regional political affairs, the more consistent the terror attacks will be within its borders.

Moreover, when looking back at the occurring attack in the last two years, Kurdish militants have mostly targeted military forces and police, while IS is known to target civilians. IS leaders have threatened Turkey and called on their followers to carry out attacks inside the country.[12] To briefly note some of the recent attacks in Turkey; just three weeks ago a twin bombing outside the football stadium in the district of Besiktas killed 46 people, most of them police officers, two hours after a football match.[13] On December 17, a car bomb exploded near a public bus, killing 13 soldiers in the central province of Kayseri. Three days later, a gunman assassinated Russia’s ambassador to Turkey at an Ankara art gallery.[14][15] These are just a few of the attacks that occurred in Turkey over the course of 2016, of course not taking away from the events of July 15 in the case of a failed coup d’état.

In terms of IS, there were recent propaganda and statements by leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and new spokesman Abu Hasan al-Muhajir have specifically called for attacks in Turkey, which is backing rebel groups attacking its territories in Syria.[16] Nightclubs and drinking venues have previously been targeted by supporters of the group, which classes anyone drinking alcohol as “disbelievers”, such as in the Paris attacks.[17] On Dec. 28, the Nashir Media Foundation, which backs Islamic State, urged sympathizers to carry out attacks in Europe during the holiday period and to “replace their fireworks with explosive belts and devices, and turn their singing and clapping into weeping and wailing”.[18] There were post of ‘lone wolf attacks’. A month ago, a spokesman for Islamic State called on supporters to carry out a wave of attacks and urged them to target “the secular, apostate Turkish government”.[19]

What does this mean? Essentially, Turkey, politically has invested a great deal of its time and resource into the civil war in Syria and the greater Middle East and to withdraw now would be counterproductive. This might not be ideal situation, but essentially it might be the situation which might provide Turkey with some breathing room and that is to fight fire with fire and to be persistent and resilient to the occurring attacks and focus on the final outcome which is justice, peace, and unity. All the aforementioned points has been actively noted by the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan who said that the attackers were trying to “create chaos” and pledged to “fight to the end” against terrorism.[20] He went onto say that t”hey are trying to demoralize us and divide us up and we will not fall prey to their traps but rather, we will retain our cool-headedness as a nation, standing more closely together, and we will never give ground to such dirty games.”[21].

As a foreigner in Istanbul, this is what I have to say…

There have been a great deal of support from global leaders that the pain of Istanbul is one that is mutually shared and will be grieved together and also solved together. Continually, there has been support between governments when cases of terrorism occur. However, it seems that terror attacks are continually growing with no sign of decrease and it has come to mind that all global governments need to put their egos aside and fight the case of terrorism head one. Terrorism does not have a single target or goal or mission; its ideal aim is to strike fear and pain into the heart and soul of the many. Terror does not distinguish between race, religion, or culture or understand borders or states, it is far beyond that and only seeks to destroy and spread hate and fear.

On new year’s eve, all civilians of Istanbul knew what had happened in the last weeks and were cautious when planning their night out and it was not for certain but yet high likely something might happen. Of course, the place and whereabouts where uncertain but an attack was imminent. All of the other foreigner students/tourists that I knew were reluctant to spend the new year’s outside and stayed put in their apartments and while others went out and enjoyed the night. I have been time and time again reminded of what has occurred in 2016 and feel really saddened to think what’s in store for 2017. Istanbul is the heart of Turkey and maybe to a greater extent the main attraction in the region with all its history and cultural attractions. And to see it all dwindle down to a case of helpless is heartbreaking, but nonetheless I feel that the people of the city and country have now used it as lesson for themselves and continue on living and enjoying life more than ever before. These attacks have led to strength, diversity, admiration, and most importantly hope and that one day we will see an end to this mayhem. I will continue on like any other Turkish civilian without fear in my daily life but will not forget or undervalue all of those who have fallen victims to these crude events. I just want to finish this article with a quote that not only do I believe in but also is critical to this case, “How do you defeat terrorism? Don’t be terrorized.[22]

Yagmur BAHRAM

[1] “Istanbul new year Reina Nightclub Attack ‘Leave 39 Dead”, BBC News Europe, January,1st, 2017. <http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-38481521>

[2] Russell Graham and Siddique Haroon, “Istanbul Attack: Manhunt for Attacker Whole Killed 39 in Nightclub”, The Guardian, January, 1st, 2017. <https://www.theguardian.com/world/live/2017/jan/01/istanbul-nightclub-attack-dozens-killed-new-years-eve-mass-shooting-live-updates>

[3] BBC News Europe.

[4] BBC News Europe.

[5] “Ankara’da yeni yıl etkinlikleri”, HaberTurk, Janurary, 1st, 2017. <http://www.haberturk.com/yerel-haberler/haber/10548215-ankarada-yeni-yil-etkinlikleri>.

[6] Lizzie Dearden, “Istanbul nightclub attack: At least 39 dead after gunman ‘dressed as Santa’ opens fire at New Year’s Party”, Independent, January, 1st, 2017. <http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/istanbul-nightclub-attack-shooting-turkey-gunman-injured-killed-victims-new-years-eve-2016-2017-a7504046.html>.

[7] Shaheen Kareem, “Turkey Nightclub shooting: Istanbul on alert after gunman kills dozens”, The Guardian, January, 1st, 2017. <https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/dec/31/turkey-armed-attacker-opens-fire-in-istanbul-nightclub-reports>

[8] McKirdy Euan, Lee Ian, and Park Madison, “Istanbul attack: Dozens killed in upscale nightclub shooting”, CNN News, January 1st, 2017. <http://edition.cnn.com/2017/01/01/europe/turkey-nightclub-attack/>.

[9] Eggert Nalina and Ponniah Kevin, “Istanbul New Year attack: As it Happened”, BBC News Group, January, 1st, 2017. <http://www.bbc.com/news/live/world-38482606>

[10] Eggert and Ponniah.

[11] Pamuk Humeyra and Tattersall Nick, “Gunman Kills 39 in Istanbul nightclub, manhunt underway”, Reuters, January 1st, 2017. <http://www.reuters.com/article/us-turkey-attack-idUSKBN14K0NH>.

[12] BBC News Europe.

[13] Shaheen Kareem.

[14] McKirdy Euan, Lee Ian, and Park Madison.

[15] McKirdy Euan, Lee Ian, and Park Madison.

[16] Lizzie Dearden.

[17] Lizzie Dearden.

[18] Pamuk Humeyra and Tattersall Nick.

[19] Pamuk Humeyra and Tattersall Nick.

[20] BBC News Europe.

[21] Shaheen Kareem.

[22] Rushdie Salman, Step Across This Line: Collected Nonfiction 1992-2002.

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