ISTANBUL– Early into New Year’s a lone gunman entered Istanbul’s high-profile Reina nightclub and opened fire, killing 39 and injuring even more. The gunman is still at large, though Turkish law enforcement arrested 8 others as possible conspirators. The terrorist organization known as the Islamic State (IS) has claimed responsibility for the attack while other dissident groups in Turkey such as the Kurdish PKK actively disavowed the attack. News outlets linked to IS suggest the terrorist organization targeted Reina for its international guests and for its New Year’s celebration, saying the gunman “attacked the most famous nightclub where Christians were celebrating their pagan feast.” Many of the victims came from around the world to celebrate New Year’s and among them was Bollywood director/producer Abis Rizvi, Indian fashion designer Khushi Shah, Saudi Arabian entrepreneur Lubna Ghasnaw and many others who are mourned at home and abroad.
For Turkey the last few months have been rife with instability and political violence. This attack is “the second in two weeks” as the New York Times points out and “followed more than 30 violent acts over the past year” according to Fox News. Prior to the shooting at Reina an off-duty policeman killed Russian ambassador Andrey Karlov, the Erdogan administration quashed an attempt to overthrow the Turkish government and since then arrested many prominent activists and journalists.
The Erdogan administration looks to push back further against both IS and rogue media after the shooting. Turkish authorities recently arrested prominent independent journalist and free speech activist Ahmet Sik based on 11 suspicious tweets and looks to crackdown further on social media accounts deemed dangerous to public peace. Turkey has renewed assaults on IS forces near the Turkish border as well. Turkey has been one of IS’s staunchest and nearest opponents, making it a target for terror attacks. Trouble with Kurdish unrest and Syria’s collapse into civil war also further destabilizes the region as a whole. Moving forward focus may fall as much on Turkey’s security and democratic institutions as it did the victims of the attack. According to the New York Times, Turkish writer Asli Aydintasbas claimed “the crackdown on domestic dissidents is further destabilizing the country” while Zeynep Ozman – a brother to one wounded by the attack – feels “terrorism is everywhere now, and the government has no control.”