EYEWITNESS: Agony, despair and anger in Ankara

By bne IntelliNews October 11, 2015

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This was supposed to be a rally for peace. Thousands of people who had been bussed in to Ankara were gathered around the capital’s historic train station on October 10, dancing, singing and chanting anti-government slogans, while waiting for the demonstration to go ahead.

But the rally never took place, as at just after 10am two suspected suicide bombs ripped through the crowds, leaving at least 95 people dead and 296 wounded, with 46 of them in serious condition.

Before the rally, protesters had anticipated small but contained clashes between radical groups and riot police, which could lead to the police using tear gas and water cannons – the hallmarks of anti-government demonstrations in Turkey in recent years. Perhaps it shouldn’t have been, but Turkey’s worst terrorist attack came as a complete shock.

One trembling woman, who was close to the explosion site, said human parts and flesh had poured down on her. She burst into tears and could not speak anymore.

Another witness said he saw body parts all over the place, people crying for help on the ground with ripped off legs and arms.

Health workers, who gathered around the train station to attend the rally, were overwhelmed by the number of wounded people. Some eyewitnesses claimed that ambulances and paramedics had only arrived some 30 minutes after the explosions.

As the real picture started to emerge and the death toll from the bombings started to rise, anger took over.

In Kizilay, in the centre of Ankara, a group of people started to chant anti-government slogans. One young man from the group in a blood-stained t-shirt was shouting “we came all the way from Mersin [on the Mediterranean coast], all we wanted was peace, but they bombed us, killed us”.

A young woman shouted at the people sitting at the cafes: “Enough is enough! How long will you sit there, doing nothing, while they kill us?”

Blame game

Some of the protesters in Ankara complained that security measures had not been tight enough and there had been no police presence around the train station, making it possible for the perpetrators to slip into the crowd and carry out the attacks. Normally police only set up checkpoints for body searches just before people enter public areas designated for demonstrations, not where people gather beforehand.

Some protesters also think the government’s statements and rhetoric about the opposition groups encouraged jihadists and anti-left extremists.

Others directly blamed the government for the attacks, which they see as an attempt to silence the opposition before the November elections. They believe that the government at the very least ignored intelligence reports suggesting that such attacks could be carried out.

They pointed to what happened in the border town of Suruc in July when a suspected Islamic State (IS) terrorist blew himself up, killing more than 30 people who gathered at the cultural centre ahead of a planned trip to help rebuild the nearby Syrian Kurdish town of Kobani. The protesters say that, given what happened in Suruc, the government could have taken more precautions prior to the Ankara rally to prevent a similar disaster.

IS has welcomed the Ankara attack on “the infidel communists in Ankara”, but the jihadist group has not yet claimed responsibility for the suicide attacks, reported the Milliyet newspaper.

The government denies any involvement and rejects claims that the intelligence service’s incompetence led to the attacks.

Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said that only IS, the Kurdish PKK guerrillas or the MLKP (extremist leftist group) and DHKP-C (another armed revolutionary group) are capable of carrying out an attack at this magnitude.

Yet for the people who went to Ankara to attend the rally and watched Davutoglu’s statement on TV on their way back home on buses, the government is responsible for the attacks, directly or indirectly, until proven otherwise.

They mostly share what Selahattin Demirtas, co-chair of the HDP, said: “We are faced with a murderous state. Is it possible that a state with such a strong intelligence network did not have prior information on the attack?”

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