44 dead and 132 wounded. This is the result of the recent triple suicide terror attack that took place at the Ataturk airport in Istanbul. This airport is known for being a hub for air traffic, with its location as a major connection point between Europe and Asia.
This is not the first attack in Istanbul in 2016. In just six months, Istanbul has faced four terrorist attacks:
12.01 – Sultanahmet
19.03 – Taksim istiklal street
07.06 – Vezneciler (by T.A.K.)
28.06 – Ataturk Airport.
In total 69 people have lost their lives and 233 have been wounded.
After each incident, the reaction of Turkish people has largely been as expected: Condemning the terrorist attack and praying for Turkey and Istanbul. But amongst politicians, there seems to be a lack of willingness on all sides to assume any responsibility.
The first reaction of the government has been to ban all forms of social media: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube; within the context of a major media blockade, limiting the information that can be accessed about the attacks. I have to add that, after personally witnessing the heavy crackdown on the Gezi Park protests three years ago, I developed considerable doubts about the notion of freedom of the press in Turkey. By limiting the information flow exclusively to TV, the government may be seen as trying to manipulate the information that reaches the public.
These are the issues that almost everyone is talking about in Turkey. But I believe it is important to bring to attention that opposition political parties have demanded a committee be formed to further investigate the terrorist attacks. This demand was however subsequently rejected by the ruling AKP party, who hold the majority in the Turkish Parliament.
Furthermore, it should be noted that police did not stop a crowd holding a public funeral service for one of the ISIS terrorists responsible for the attacks. Yet the same police force prevented the Istanbul “Pride march” from taking place. Meanwhile, further troubling are the allegations that the Turkish government has sent military equipment to support ISIS.
In spite of what I have stated above, I feel the need to express my gratitude to the securityforces. They made sure that our only Jewish school was protected like a fortress during the high security alerts this April – alerts that were directed specifically towards the Jewish school.
In the aftermath of previous attacks I felt that Turkey had not received sufficient support and attention from the international community. I had expected more sympathy from European countries who had suffered similarly horrible attacks to those we had in Turkey. However, following this most recent attack, for the first time I have felt the presence of international support and solidarity.
Also, immediately after the attack, Facebook sent round a message asking if those of us in Istanbul were safe. But this is not the key point. Yes, we are alive, but we do not feel safe. Straight after the attack people all around the world said “Pray for Istanbul”. Please do not only pray, please also take action. It is by taking action, that we can overcome the evildoing of this narrow-minded ideology that is trying to shake the very ground beneath us.
During these unsettling times in the country, as a Jew residing here, amidst a 99% Muslim population, that has taken in 3 million Syrians with only cursory security checks, I feel my personal worries are greater than that of the general population. Such a reality makes me worry about the synagogues, Jewish schools and other Jewish facilities. Moreover it makes me worried about Jewish life as a whole in Istanbul, a city that Jews have been able to call home since 1492.
I do not wish to imply that all Turks, Muslims and Syrians pose a threat, but out of the population of 84 million people, some have become marginalized and radicalized. Recent polls show 8% support for ISIS in the Turkish public.
At present I am worried for my life, for my future in this country, and for the well-being of my people… both Turkish and Turkish Jewish. During the relatively short time I spent writing this article, I had to revise the number of people who lost their lives three times, due to the constantly increasing death toll.
Jack Gozcu Eskenazi