Turkey Gaziantep: Bomb survivor haunted by attacks

Relatives of Gaziantep victim Kumri Ilter after a funeral ceremony in Gaziantep (22 August) Image copyright EPA
Image caption More than half of the victims of the wedding party bombing in Gaziantep were children

When bombers from the jihadist group Islamic State (IS) killed 100 people at a peace rally in Ankara in October 2015, Ismail Isli's niece and six of his close friends were among the victims.

He survived the attack but he is counting the cost again after the bombing of a wedding party in the southern city of Gaziantep in which 54 people died, including 29 children.

Ismail knew the latest victims too.

I had met him in a cafe in the Mediterranean coastal town of Alanya hours before the Gaziantep attack. The Ankara bombing had left him in a coma for two weeks. It was only when he came round that he was told of the loss of those close to him.

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Media caption"Curse those who did this": The BBC's Mark Lowen meets relatives of a bomb attack on a wedding

Ismail told me how he had managed to cling on to life and of the continuing guilt he felt at being alive. And he was going to tell me about his 20-year old niece when we returned to the cafe the next morning.

The bombing of the wedding party changed all that. I left for Gaziantep at 03:00 on Sunday morning as Turkish media showed terrible images of the attack.

When I texted Ismail to apologise that we could not meet, he replied immediately.

"I couldn't sleep all night," he told me. "I know the family whose children are getting married. I think they will kill all of us unfortunately."

The victims are like family to him. This is how the close-knit Kurdish community see people, even if they are not from the same village.

When IS attacked the Syrian town of Kobane three years ago, Kurdish families fled to Turkey where they said they had relatives. They did not necessarily have blood ties but they still saw each other as family.

The peace rally bombing that Ismail survived was the second big IS attack on Turkey. Between that date and this hundreds more have died.

I rang him from Gaziantep.

His voice trembling, he told me that some of the victims of the wedding party attack were cousins of a woman who died in Ankara. Filiz Batur was killed by IS at the peace rally.

Many in Turkey have become tired of counting victims from so many bombings.

But others, like Ismail, cannot get through a day without being haunted by the attacks.

He makes videos of his niece, Ebru Mavi, and talks of the friends he lost. He showed me a poem written for the victims.

I do not have the courage to call him again.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Some 250 people were wounded in the Ankara bombing last October

Ismail could not summon the strength to come to Gaziantep for the latest funerals.

He still bears the scars of the Ankara peace rally bombing.

He was lucky enough not to be at the wedding but this latest attack brings more scars even so. Twenty-nine children died that night in Gaziantep.

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