Suruc survivor who lost cousins says ‘I wish I’d died’

Ismail Denli voices growing sense of anger among Kurds towards Turkish government over failure to tackle ISIL threat.

Slumped over in his wheelchair and seemingly crushed by survivor’s guilt, Ismail Denli is in deep, unrelenting pain.

“I left them there,” he tells me. “I left my brothers there. How could I have done that?”

As Ismail, a Kurdish youth activist in Akcakale, Turkey, talks lovingly about his deceased cousins, Qassim and Osman, he also inflicts the kind of punishing mental trauma on himself that will be hard to recover from.

“I wish I had died too,” he says of Monday’s suicide bombing in the southeastern Turkish border town of Suruc that killed 32 activists.

As members of the Turkish Federation of Socialist Youth Associations, Ismail and his cousins, whom he considered even closer than siblings, had planned to cross the border into Kobane, Syria, and help fellow Kurds rebuild that devastated city.

On Monday, the group had held a press event to announce their plans, and Ismail, who’d been holding up a banner, began feeling fatigued from the heat. That’s when he decided to move towards the shade. Seconds later, the suicide bomber struck.

Dozens were killed in the blast, which Turkey’s government believes was carried out by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). Among those victims were Qassim and Osman.

“If I had been patient,” Ismail says bitterly. “If I’d waited just four more seconds, I would be with my brothers now.”

In Suruc, anger and anxiety are clearly on the rise; underscoring not just how much the threat from ISIL has risen, but also highlighting just how volatile the relationship between Turkey’s government and the country’s Kurdish population remains.

RELATED: Turkey ‘identifies Suruc suicide bombing suspect’

The government has repeatedly stressed they will take any and all measures needed to protect Turkey’s citizens and prevent this from happening again.

According to Anadolu Agency, Turkey’s official news agency, after a meeting of the country’s Council of Ministers on Wednesday in Ankara, Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc said: “A renewed effort will be made to stop the entry of terrorists into Turkey via the Syrian border without affecting the humanitarian passages for refugees.”

Arinc called the perception that Turkey’s government wasn’t doing enough to deal with ISIL, “a nefarious lie”.

“Our country is determined to fight against this terrorist organisation like it fights against all kinds of terror,” he said.

But those promises are falling largely on deaf ears in Suruc.

“There is a huge lack of security here,” explains Ismail. “ISIL is everywhere here. Have any of ISIL’s members been arrested?”

Members of the Kurdish population in larger Urfa Province have been directing a growing sense of fury towards Turkey’s government. Ismail is one of them.

“I’m angry at the government,” he says.

RELATED: Turkey to boost border security after ‘ISIL’ attack

A short distance away, at the Akcakale border crossing, which sits along Turkey’s long, porous border with Syria, the threat of infiltration by ISIL members cannot be overstated.

The government has beefed up its military presence, but many members of the Kurdish population say these actions simply aren’t enough.

They feel the government turned a blind eye for far too long to the problem of ISIL fighters crossing from Syria to Turkey and back again.

Many Kurds, who are Turkey’s largest minority group, are frustrated with the government’s Syria policy, as Ankara refuses to support the Kurdish groups fighting ISIL inside Syria.

Tensions have risen further since the armed wing of the PKK, the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party, announced on Wednesday they were behind the killing of two Turkish police officers whom they accused of collaborating with ISIL.

The group said in a statement that the killings were revenge for the suicide attack in Suruc.

Ismail believes Kurds will continue to be targeted. “Border security,” he says, “is zero”.

Ismail lost the use of his legs in a car accident nine years ago, but says the wounds he sustained in this attack are far worse.

“I didn’t get any physical injuries,” he tells me, “but psychologically, in my heart, I got injured.

“I feel like this arm is gone, and this arm is gone – my cousins were my arms and legs. They were my comrades, they were my brothers.”

Now, for Ismail, the war he’s observed for years from just across a border, has truly hit home. But the conflict he sees next door pales in comparison to the turmoil he feels inside.

Source: Al Jazeera