Nation mourns young lives cut short by Istanbul terror attacks
by Daily Sabah
ISTANBULDec 13, 2016 - 12:00 am GMT+3
by Daily Sabah
Dec 13, 2016 12:00 am
They were police officers, students, drivers and many were under the age of 30. The terrorist attacks carried out by the PKK's suicide team, the Kurdistan Freedom Falcons (TAK) ended the lives of 44 innocent people on Saturday, traumatizing the nation and their families.
Hubbub of a domestic league soccer match between Beşiktaş and Bursaspor was just receding when a car bomb was set off next to a group of riot police who had gathered at a designated pick-up point as they were getting ready to leave the stadium where they were deployed for crowd control.
The scene outside Beşiktaş's newly built Vodafone Arena stadium on the Bosporus was a chaotic mess after the explosion tore apart police vehicles, sending wreckage flying as high as the roof of the stadium, which was largely empty after fans left just minutes earlier.
About 45 seconds later, another explosion ripped through Maçka Park, a green getaway in Istanbul's concrete jungle, adjacent to the stadium. This time, a suicide bomber blew himself up as a few police officers surrounded the man after getting suspicious of his actions.
Though a string of terror attacks this year and in 2015 has made the public somewhat accustomed to scenes of horror, the tragic scene, with the white helmets of police officers scattered around, added to the trauma that rocked the nation.
As the life stories of the victims emerge, the Turkish nation will be further aggravated at the suffering it has faced. And yet, the tragedy has united the nation who is standing firm against the serial acts of terror carried out by the PKK, its affiliates, Daesh and other groups in the region.
A large number of casualties were young police officers. Some were newcomers to law enforcement, enrolled in the force a few years ago, while a few others were veterans like Vefa Karakurdu, the 43-year-old police chief who was responsible for stadium's security.
"You see, we had 1,500 Bursa fans but the match was over without any incident," Karakurdu told Kartal Yiğit, a reporter who spoke to the officer minutes before the explosion.
Karakurdu was apparently relieved that away team's supporters did not make a scene at the match. The father of two, who was also a die hard fan, was killed in the explosion.
Most of other police officers who were killed in the attack were young men from poor Anatolian families. In the beginning of their law enforcement careers, these men, in their 20s, left behind their families to join the police.
Most of the officers were single, leaving behind the grieving parents and siblings while others, like Adem Oğuz, left behind young children. Oğuz, who was deployed six years ago, had a 6-month-old son when he was killed in the terror attack.
Oğuzhan Duyar, a 22-year-old riot police officer, was among the newest recruits to the force. Assigned to the force six months ago, the young man returned to his hometown in the central province of Konya in a flag-draped coffin.
"Stand up, son! See how many admirers you have," his teary-eyed mother Nuran shouted as a large crowd accompanied his coffin while she donned her son's uniform.
Kadir Yıldırım was another veteran of the force. The 41-year-old was heading a riot police unit deployed to the stadium. Yıldırım was recently posted in Istanbul after a stint with anti-terror police in the southeast.
"May Allah bless us with martyrdom," he recently wrote on his social media account amid a barrage of terror attacks targeting police and soldiers by the PKK and casualties in counterterror operations.
Berkay Akbaş was studying medicine at a university in capital Ankara. The 19-year-old son of a local politician from the opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) was in Istanbul for a weekend trip with friends. A staunch fan of Beşiktaş's major rival Fenerbahçe, Akbaş was probably talking about the match when he was traveling in a taxi passing by the stadium. A shrapnel piece ripped through the vehicle instantly killing Akbaş. A funeral was held for the young man in his hometown of Sinop in northern Turkey where the flag of his beloved Fenerbahçe covered his coffin.
Tunç Uncu was a fervent fan of Beşiktaş and he landed his dream job five months ago. A clerk at the club's official merchandise shop, Uncu was also a prolific social media user. His account was full of his favorite players, from Caner Erkin to Vincent Aboubakar.
The 29-year-old was among the civilians closest to the gathering point of the police officers, where the explosion took place. Following his death, Beşiktaş fans launched a campaign to buy a new house for the young man's family after photos showing a crowd of mourners gathered at a two-story decrepit home where he lived with his family surfaced.