The Ankara massacre four years on: as the legal battles continue, so does the pain

Four years after twin bomb attacks in Ankara that killed over 100 people, survivors are still seeking medical treatment and psychological support. The trials of the 16 fugitive suspects are ongoing.

Serkan Alan / DUVAR

It has been four years since an ISIS suicide bomb attack targeted an assembly of leftist groups and labor organizations near Ankara's main train station. The blast killed 103 people, going down as the deadliest terror attack to ever take place on Turkish soil.

Four years later, survivors of the attack are still seeking medical treatment and psychological support. Meanwhile, the trials of the 16 suspects, who are on the run, are ongoing.

Günay Karakuş not only lost two friends in the attack, but one of her legs as well. In the ensuing years, she has undergone numerous operations, received a prosthetic leg , and avidly took up painting as a hobby, holding a number of her own exhibitions. A teacher is the northeastern province of Erzincan, Karakuş said her health problems are still an issue.

“I'm still going to and from Istanbul for treatment. There are some problems with my prosthetic leg. In fours actually my health problems have passed, but the issues with the prosthetic leg never end. People think that once you install a prosthetic leg, your daily life continues, but that is not the case. The trips to Istanbul and Ankara are always on-going. Installing a prosthetic leg does not solve everything all at once. I wasn't able to return to my previous quality of life. I'm working but I have physical difficulties. I'm somehow trying to adapt to life. I'm together with my students, I'm doing paintings and I'm creating. It's good to be with my students,” said Karakuş.

Hatice Çevik, who lost two relatives in the Ankara bombing, said she didn't speak to anyone for three months after the attack. This year, Çevik was elected as the co-mayor of the southeastern district of Suruç from the pro-Kurdish People's Democratic Party (HDP). Suruç was the site of a separate ISIS bomb attack that targeted leftists who were planning on crossing the border into Syria to help rebuild the predominantly Kurdish city of Kobane, which was reduced to rubble during fighting between ISIS and Syrian militant forces.

“The four years [after the attack] cannot be put into words. We went through a very difficult process. Until January of 2019, I closed myself off, and devoted my life to my children. But I couldn't really make myself feel better. After thinking about it and evaluating the offer from the party, accepting the candidacy was a bit like therapy. To be together with the people and to share their pain was like therapy. Like me, in Suruç there is no household that has not been inflicted with pain,” Çevik said.

October 10th Peace and Solidarity Association President Mehtap Sakinci Coşgun, who lost her husband Uygar Coşgun in the attack, said:

“From time to time we were exhausted, and we went through periods that we could not handle. But then we realized that it passed quickly. We can say that it's good that we began this struggle and became a part of it. Without solidarity and without being together, these four years would not have passed as quickly,” Coşgun said.

“There are those with minor injuries or major injuries, but there are people that are still living with ball bearings embedded inside their bodies. The wounds and pains of the heart also do not pass easily. Some treatments do not involve a quick healing processes. There are people still undergoing treatment,” Coşgun said.

Speaking about the 16 fugitive suspects believed to have had a hand in planning the bombings, İlke Işık from the October 10 Ankara Massacre Trial Lawyer Commission said that they were being followed in Turkey prior to the attack and should have been apprehended.

“How were these people not caught? In spite of the fact that they were followed within Turkey, we will ask at the third hearing why they were not apprehended. If they were caught, this massacre would not have taken place. It is not just us who are saying that these people were the planners of the massacre, it says so on the indictment as well.What information did the intelligence agencies have about these people? Were they being followed?” Işık said.