Police detain over 20 commemorating ISIS massacre victims in Ankara

Over 20 people were detained during a commemoration of the Ankara Massacre that claimed the lives of over 100. Meanwhile, the women among the ISIS suspects were reported to have been promised non-prosecution by the courts.

Duvar English

Over 20 attendees of the 2015 Ankara Massacre commemoration in the Turkish capital were detained in front of the train station where an ISIS twin suicide bombing claimed the lives of more than 100 people and wounded scores of others at a peace rally on Oct. 10, 2015. 

Suspects of the deadly attack remain largely absent from prosecution, while families of the victims and supporters of the cause have been demanding justice for the deceased.

This year was no exception in terms of memorial activities, as a large group gathered in Ankara's Ulus district to start a march to the train station that is the scene of the attack.

Police had barricaded off all streets leading up to the train station, and told the crowd that they wouldn't be allowed passage unless their names were among those in a pre-determined list they were given. 

Law enforcement quickly employed force against the group, propelling the crowds upon an order to "sweep them away," even detaining a pedestrian chanting "Don't forget October 10, don't let it be forgotten!"

Journalists were also attacked for trying to photograph the scene, and some members of the press were battered, while members of the crowd at large were threatened with immediate detentions if they chanted any slogans. 

Journalist Tamer Arda Erşin was among those attacked by police, with one officer threatening to "cut the journalist in four pieces." 

Police allowed press into the designated area for the memorial after the time of the massacre, 10.04 a.m., and victims' families, with survivors, chanted "Long live our fight for labor and democracy."

One of the slogans was directed at the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), as it said "ISIS is the murderer, AKP is the accomplice."

"October 10 is a political massacre," said October 10 Peace Association Chair Mehtap Sakinci Coşgun. "Those who hide the assailants of crimes against humanity are accomplices to the crimes."

The ruling AKP is once again creating an environment of tension in the country ahead of the 2023 general elections, and is hoping for the uncertainty to work in their favor, said Arzu Çerkezoğlu, chair of Confederation of Progressive Trade Unions of Turkey (DİSK).

'Why were the trees taken down?'

The Ankara Governor's Office, meanwhile, ordered the removal of memorial trees planted in front of the train station on Oct. 9, prompting protest from the Union of Chambers of Turkish Engineers and Architects Chambers (TMMOB) Ankara Office.

"The place of the biggest massacre in the country will be the Labor, Peace, Democracy Memorial Square!" they wrote in an online statement. 

The trees were part of the plan for the square, the TMMOB noted, adding that "those who cannot even tolerate [saplings] in the place where 103 lives were taken from us are condemned to be morally condemned."

The organization also urged the governor's office to provide an explanation for their practice.

Female ISIS members were 'promised acquittal'

Separately, lawyer Senem Doğanoğlu noted that there are tons of women among the web of ISIS suspects of the massacre, adding that only eight have been called to testify as witnesses so far.

Women are often portrayed as "widows" or "wives" in the context of the criminal scheme, but are in fact well-versed in the inner workings of ISIS at the time, the attorney told the daily Evrensel. 

The wife of imprisoned suspect Resul Demir, Ceren Demir, helped carry intelligence and facilitate suspects' transportation, the attorney said, but courts have denied petitions to have her testify.

Another key female suspect was Merve Dündar who lived as an ISIS member for years, Doğanoğlu noted, and she helped identify multiple names in the case.

"But her testimony prompted the court to rule out any other female suspects giving statements," the attorney said. "It's our understanding that women are transported into Turkey with special operations."

Most women should really be defendants in the Ankara Massacre case, but they're always witnesses, Doğanoğlu said, adding that all female ISIS suspects are thought to have been "forced" into any acts by their husbands. 

"They all want to benefit from the effective repentance law, and the courts allow it for all women even though they're really inconsistent," the attorney said. 

Most women are told to plead effective repentance in return for acquittals, Doğanoğlu said, urging the women to remain silent even though many of the fugitive suspects they are married to are returning to Turkey.