Families, officials pay tribute to victims of nightclub attack in Istanbul

A man leaves flowers next to portraits of victims in front of the Reina nightclub in Istanbul on December 31, 2017, a year after an attack on the club that left 39 dead (AFP Photo)

Istanbul had more muted celebrations to mark the end of 2017 and it is relatively linked to a Daesh attack that killed 39 people last year during New Year's celebrations at a popular nightclub.

Some 100 people have gathered outside an Istanbul nightclub to remember the victims of a deadly New Year's attack a year ago.

The group, holding carnations, observed a moment of silence Sunday.

A ceremony planned by local authorities started at 1:00 p.m. (GMT) and was attended by foreign consuls and Beşiktaş mayor Murat Hazinedar. The families of the victims also came to remember the victims of the deadly attack.

The attack on Reina left deep scars in the hearts of the next of kin of victims who were revelers and security guards at the venue on the Bosporus shore when a gunman walked in and opened fire.

Early on Jan. 1, 2017, an assailant shot his way into the Reina nightclub where hundreds were celebrating the New Year.

Ayhan Arık, a travel agent and driver who had taken tourists to the party, was standing by his bus, chatting with policeman Burak Yıldız at the entrance of the nightclub when Abdulgadir Masharipov approached.
Gun-toting Masharipov, who was instructed to take out the revelers by his Daesh superior, started his slayings with Arık and Yıldız. After killing the two men, he proceeded to go inside the club and began shooting randomly.

Tarık, Arık's brother, says his life was "completely changed."
"I never recovered from his death and I don't think I won't be the same person I was before the attack. I feel like I am dead too. He died for nothing, he was just a man making a living there," he said.
It is difficult for him to forget the pain, but to relieve it he frequently visits his brother's grave.

When Masharipov appeared before an Istanbul court on Dec. 11, 2017, Arık had a chance to "mitigate the pain."
"I had so much to tell him," he says, without elaborating.
In response, he had only a blank stare from Masharipov.
"I trust in justice and I saw that the prosecutors did not miss a single detail while building their case," Arık said.

The trial is still underway for Uzbek-born Masharipov and 51 other suspects accused of aiding and abetting him.
Masharipov faces 40 separate life sentences without the possibility of parole – not counting those he wounded.
The suspect has already admitted to being a member of the Daesh terror group and he told prosecutors that is a university graduate and a teacher. He noted that prior to carrying out the Reina terrorist attack he had never been part of any Daesh-sponsored act.
In his first testimony to the court after a lengthy interrogation, Masharipov said he was not "an enemy" of Turkey, and he only acted "in retaliation" to Turkey's crackdown on the terrorist group activities in Iraq and Syria.

Though the suspect claimed he tried to kill himself after the attack, he was found with other Daesh sympathizers hiding in a residence in the Esenyurt district of Istanbul on Jan. 16, 2017 after being on the run for two weeks. He also avoided a confrontation with police and narrowly escaped capture at a checkpoint while he was on the run.

Hatice Koç was the private security guard at Reina and was one of Masharipov's first victims. The 29-year-old woman left behind her 3-year-old daughter, Hiranur. The little girl, who now stays with her grandparents, says she misses her mother very much.
"I raised her while her mother was working and she is now my daughter," her wailing grandmother Döndü said.
"Hatice has bought new toys for Hiranur and would bring them home after her shift. She couldn't but they delivered the toys to us."
"May Allah give no one such pain, but I am also proud that my daughter is a martyr," she said.

Ali Akyıl, a Turkish worker who lives in Belgium, lost his 23-year-old son Mehmet Kerim Akyıl in the Daesh attack. The young man was on vacation in his native country with friends and would fly to city of Diyarbakır from Istanbul.
When he couldn't find a flight on New Year's Eve, he decided to spend a few hours at Reina before a morning flight. "He liked to travel very much. He was a globetrotter," his father recounts. "I lost him but his memory is with me every second."
On Jan.3, Houthalen, the Belgian town where the Akyıl family lived, will unveil a monument in memory of the young man and other terror victims. The father says the monument will be a display of people's strong stance against terrorism.

Turkey has been targeted by many deadly Daesh attacks since 2015. Ankara has deported more than 5,000 Daesh suspects and 3,290 foreign terrorists from 95 countries in recent years and has dismantled several terrorist cells that provided logistical assistance in Syria and Iraq and for plotting attacks inside the country.

The country's efforts against Daesh made it a primary target for the terrorist group, which has carried out numerous gun and bomb attacks targeting security forces and civilians.
This includes the country's deadliest terrorist attack, which killed 102 people and wounded 400 others in a twin suicide bombing at a peace rally in Ankara on Oct. 10, 2015.

On Sunday, police captured 20 Daesh suspects in Istanbul including 15 foreigners.
Media reports said suspects were in contact with senior cadres of Daesh in Iraq and Syria and were planning to carry out attacks during New Year's celebrations.
Last week, at least 200 terrorist suspects were apprehended in nationwide operations. Five people, including a Chechen, an Iraqi and three Syrian nationals linked to the terrorist group were detained in the capital Ankara.

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