Istanbul, June 30, 2016/Independent Balkan News Agency
By Manolis Kostidis
The afternoon flight of Turkish Airlines from Athens to Istanbul landed with only 20 minutes delay. The first morning flight we had booked was canceled, as the Airport of Istanbul remained closed at the time.
I didn’t have high expectations, as just a few hours ago the “Kemal Ataturk” had taken one of the largest terrorist attacks in Turkey. Nevertheless, the airport reopened within 8 hours and up to passport control passengers do not understand anything of what happened. But just after passport control one can understand the tragic situation.
Almost half the arrivals hall has been destroyed. And I was shocked when I saw the duty free stores operating at a distance of 3-4 meters from where 41 people were killed and at least 246 others were injured! The Turkish authorities are trying to immediately erase the traces of this terrorist attack organized by the jihadists of the Islamic State.
All windows of the arrivals area have either been broken or have bullet holes. All mobile phone shops and fast food shops remain closed, as they were all destroyed in the explosion. The air conditioning does not work and repair crews work feverishly to repair the damage. However, it is a feat to be able to operate the airport under such conditions, when so much blood has been spilled in this place.
Mr Mehmet with whom we talked, is one of the hundreds of people who came today at the airport after the attack. He was here yesterday, he was saved by a miracle and now he searches for his luggage which he had to leave behind during his escape. Nobody knows if something was left, but dozens of others like Mehmet come here to look for their things.
In passport control queues are separated, with the Turks and foreigners waiting on different lines. What troubled me is that the Turks appear to remain apathetic to the hits, as if they have gotten used to them. And how could that not be the case when from July 7, 2015 to date, Turkey was hit by 10 different suicide attacks with hundreds of dead and wounded. Foreigners are more anxious. Those who arrive come on business. Tourists are few and the majority from the Middle East.
Many express ire at the airport taxis as just following the triple onslaught of suicide bombers many of them demanded even 100 dollars per person to transport the panicky people over short distances away from the airport.
In the departure hall, things are somewhat better, with only one area being closed as only one suicide bomber acted there. Immediately following the attack, crews cleaned the areas of check-in and hung the Turkish flag and the picture of Kemal Ataturk.
Those most shocked of all are the employees of the private security of the airport who operate the detection equipment. Many of their colleagues were killed on duty. And now the remaining are trying to prevent any terrorist action.
The Turkish government wants to show that everything is working in the country to not show defeatism and they have succeeded in this. But the opposition press wonders about the effectiveness of the police, the intelligence services cannot prevent the actions of jihadists. What is most worrying is that at least 5,000 Turks are on the side of the Islamic state and if Erdogan collaborates with Russia and Putin against the jihadists they fear more such attacks.
I was never one to exaggerate a story. But while I am writing this text in Istanbul airport, there are often loud shouts, friends joking or a quarrel. Every time I fear for the existence of a terrorist reaching havoc and stop writing. Unfortunately, this is what terrorists have “achieved”. To spread terror everywhere.