99 people are reported dead after the bombing that occurred at a peace rally in Ankara, Turkey. [The number has increased to 109.] Saturday, 10th of October, “Peace, Labor and Democracy” rally was organized by many unions, civil society organizations and non-governmental organizations. The rally was a response to the ongoing war between Turkish Armed Forces and Kurdish militants in southeast of Turkey. The demand was to enter ceasefire.
Saturday morning, people started to unite at the rally’s meeting spot, Ankara Train Station. According the official declaration of Turkish Security Forces, there were 14.000 people present in the area. Participants of the rally lined up with their associations, holding banners demanding peace. The crowds chanted: “Resist the war, make peace now!”
At exactly 10:04 AM there were two consecutive explosions, suspected to be suicide bombings, within close distance to each other. Video footage shows the exact moment when the bomb went off, as people were singing and dancing:
Soon after the bombing, within the chaos, cries and screams for help, various civilians in the area and press workers started using the social media announcing that there are tens of dead people in the area and no ambulances were arriving. Doğan Tılıç, a participant of the rally explained the moments of the attack on his article on BirGün newspaper: “I was 20 meters away from the area where the bomb went off. The police forces entered the area by throwing gas capsules. I have not seen any ambulances when the police was arriving. Here [Turkey] the distance between life and death is only 20 meters.” Member of Turkish Medicine Association, Hande Arpat gave a statement to Agos newspaper: “Because the police attacked with gas capsules right after the explosion, we could not perform immediate medical intervention on those who were wounded.” HDP (People’s Democratic Party) Istanbul deputy Filiz Kerestecioğlu also gave a statement to Agos newspaper: “I arrived 30 minutes after the explosion; immediately we started carrying the wounded people. They [police] made an intervention on the first ambulances that were trying to exit.”
This footage shows the police attacking the people trying to escape and blocking their way:
Many videos taken right after the bombing are circulating in the social media. Most of them contain graphic content and I watched them all. In one of them there’s a woman crying “My flesh is falling apart, I am dying!” The man shooting the video, in between his sobs keeps saying “Hang in there, you will resist, please don’t die!”
I was going to be there. My feminist association, erktolia, already made a call for women’s associations to participate in this rally. I was going to be there with my friends but we cancelled because the plane tickets were too expensive. The minute I woke up on Saturday morning, I saw messages from my friends about the incident. I started searching through the Facebook profiles of each person I know who was to attend the rally. On each click, my fingers were shaking. I could have been there with them, and we could have been dead. And here I am today, in Paris, miles away from people I love, miles away from this massacre, searching through the lists of dead and wounded people, trying to see if there is a name that I recognize.
Just a couple of hours after the bombing, Turkish Radio and Television Supreme Council announced a ban on press coverage from the area. The request was made from Vice Prime Minister of Turkey, Yalçın Akdoğan. Then people from Turkey started tweeting that they could not access Twitter and they had to use various VPN services to tweet.
Interior Affair Minister Selami Altınok, Justice Minister Kenan İpek and Health Minister Mehmet Müezzinoglu gave a press conference on condemning this attack. Health Minister explained that there were 4 ambulances in the area (where 14K people were rallying) and by 11:00 AM (55 minutes after the call for help was made) 21 ambulances made it to the area of the bombing. He also said that hospitals are fully equipped with staff and medical needs yet as he was saying that, the Turkish Medicine Association made a call to say that more staff and blood is needed. Interior Affairs Minister also said: “Necessary measures were taken. I don’t think that there was vulnerability in security.”
In Ankara, the capital of Turkey, where about 4.5 million of people live, a national peace rally was organized. As I write, the death toll is 109 and there are 516 casualties, and the officials say that the security measures were taken?
Just 1 day ago, on 9th of October, a local newspaper in Rize, Turkey organized a protest against terrorism. Well known gang leader Sedat Peker participated to this rally and he said “blood will be shed, and once rivers of blood are shed, then they [terrorists] will understand” yet there were no bombings there. Just 20 days ago, a rally was organized in Istanbul against terrorism where Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu said “you have to work hard for 1st of November [general elections day] and make AKP the ruling party.” President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan gave a speech there as well, yet there were no incidents.
According to the info-graphic prepared by Cumhuriyet newspaper 694 civilians, soldiers, police and Kurdish militants have died since the last elections on June 7th. 694 people have died in 4 months and not a single official has resigned!
On the night of the bombing, in a press speech, Selahattin Demiştaş co-president of HDP, addressed to the AKP government’s inadequacy on investigating such attacks within its history and accused AKP for being responsible of this attack: “Has there been even one massacre that you [the state] found the criminals perpetrated them? Did you find who did Roboski massacre? Did you find who murdered kids in Gezi protests? Did you find out who bombed our Diyarbakir rally? Is Suruç massacre resolved? This massacre will not be brought to justice either because there are no dark hands behind it. They are conveying this message “We can kill you and blow up you into pieces in broad day light in the middle of Ankara! This is not just an attack on us. They want to give this message: We can kill anyone who stand up against us [AKP] and cover it.”
Many AKP members and pro-AKP media were quick to blame PKK (Kurdistan Workers Party) which is an armed pro-Kurdish organization. Yet PKK has announced one day before the bombings that they are willing to enter ceasefire and they made a statement saying that the attack was not done by them.
The protesters ask for justice. They claim that whoever is being this attack, the state should be held accountable for, because it’s the state who dragged Turkey into a civil war and it’s the state who did not take majors in investigating DAESH militants existing in Turkey. A banner from the İstanbul protests says: “Murderer State”
We don’t know who organized the bombing in Ankara yet. What we know is that the Turkish state failed to protect its citizen in a national rally, emergency response was inadequate and was focused more on harsh control and banning freedom of press. As I write, 48 hours passed since the attack, and no names have been released and the officials refuse to take responsibility over this failure. Doesn’t that say something?
Anniversary Update (10/10/16): 36 suspects [who had strong relations with DAESH have been detained after the attack. 10 of them were arrested. All of them are still on trial.