Turkish police beat and detain people commemorating victims of Suruç massacre

Photo: Bülent Kılıç / AFP

Turkish police beat and detained a group of people in İstanbul’s Kadıkõy district on Tuesday during a commemoration of the 33 victims of an Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) suicide attack that took place in the Suruç district of Şanlıurfa six years ago, the Sendika news website reported.

The commemoration was organized by the Suruç Families Initiative, a platform for families who lost loved ones in the attack. Several youth organizations also participated in the commemoration and staged a sit-in. Once the group started walking the police intervened with tear gas, water cannons and rubber bullets.

Police threw one gas cannister directly inside the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) district building, causing several people to pass out from the gas. Fatoş Erdoğan, a journalist writing for the dokuz8 news website suffered a broken arm during the ensuing struggle.

Images of police spraying tear gas into police cars where detainees were held and closing the doors on them circulated on social media. One young woman was allegedly pushed down the hospital stairs by a police officer where she was brought for a health check after being detained.

While 50 people who were detained were released in the early hours of this morning, 12 remain in detention.

This year is the sixth anniversary of the Suruç bombings. On July 20, 2015 a group of university students who were traveling to the Syrian town of Kobani (officially known as Ayn-al Arab) on the Turkish border to help with reconstruction efforts gathered outside the Amara Cultural Center in Suruç to make a press statement. The city of Kobani was recaptured from ISIS by a coalition of Kurdish forces supported by the US in January 2015, but it was in ruins as a result of intense fighting.

A suicide bomb that went off during the gathering in front of the cameras claimed the lives of 33 people and injured more than 100. Most of the victims were members of the Socialist Party of the Oppressed (ESP) youth wing and the Socialist Youth Associations Federation (SGDF). ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack the next day. Relatives of the victims blamed the police for failing to take the necessary precautions.

The first hearing in the case concerning the attack was held 21 months after the incident, in 2017. Currently, there is only one suspect under arrest, Yakup Şahin, who is also accused of planning a terrorist attack against a large gathering of mainly pro-Kurdish and leftist groups in Ankara on October 10, 2015 that claimed the lives of 109 people.

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