People in Istanbul are becoming accustomed to terrorist attacks, but finding a way to cope hardly makes it better, reports Anna Lekas Miller.
Even though it is the middle of a workday, there is a waiting list at the blood donation center in the main square of Istanbul’s Kadikoy neighborhood.
“I’m here every day,” Hafize, an energetic nurse, tells DW, using her first break in three hours to organize paperwork from people who had already come to the clinic to donate blood.
“But today is far busier than usual,” she continues. “Lots of people are coming in response to the attacks last night.”
Tuesday night, a suicide bomber exploded himself outside the arrivals hall of Ataturk International Airport, killing 41 and injuring more than 230 in a coordinated attack with two armed gunmen. Chaos reigned at the airport as windows shattered, and bodies were hastily covered in sheets. Ambulance sirens ripped through the streets as the casualty reports mounted. Loved ones of those arriving, or stuck inside, gathered outside the airport, waiting for information.
The morning after, dozens of people gathered to donate blood – and help the wounded.
Coming to people’s aid
“I’ve never given blood before,” said Ali, a 32-year-old lawyer working in the neighborhood, standing on the steps of the donation center, a small truck parked in the center of the main square in trendy Kadikoy.
“But after last night, I figured that now is as good as a time as any to start.”
Anyone who arrives at the clinic is asked to fill out an extensive health survey, covering everything that could possibly keep them from giving blood, from whether they have diabetes to whether they have recently gotten a tattoo. Next, they are weighed. If they weigh less than 50 kilos (110 pounds), they are turned away. However, if they meet the necessary health requirements, one of the nurses takes their blood pressure, and leads them to one of four chairs where they have their blood drawn.
Once they are finished, they can help themselves to a table of orange soda.
“Our country has seen so much bloodshed over the past two years,” Ali continues, referring to multiple terrorist attacks that have hit Istanbul and Ankara, as well as the ongoing violence in the southeastern region of the country. Even though he didn’t personally know anyone trapped inside of the airport, his uncle was flying into a nearby airport last night, making the attacks hit close to home.
“I wish we would stop separating people because of their religion, or political allegiances,” he continued. “That’s the only thing that would really stop the attackers.”
Wave of terrorist attacks
This is the 14th terrorist attack to take place in Turkey in 2016 – the majority of which have been claimed by the “Islamic State” group or Kurdish Workers Party (PKK) militants.
“We aren’t a stranger to this kind of attack anymore,” says Merve, a 29-year-old, working in a nearby office.
“What scares me the most is that I’m a mother,” she continues. “What kind of world is this for our children? It could have been any of us, and any of our children killed in the airport last night.”
‘We are just trying to do what we can’
Inside the clinic, the small staff of nurses were preparing for a busy rest of the day.
“The attack happened – we can’t do anything about that,” said Onur, a middle-aged nurse alternating between organizing incoming donors to fill out paperwork and drawing blood himself. “But we hope this can at least support the victims.”
Along the walls of the truck, vials are carefully organized by blood type. Soon after, they are labeled, boxed and transported to nearby hospitals. While the blood drawn today will go to help the victims being treated in the hospitals near the airport, this blood truck was also activated following the attacks earlier this year in Ankara and Istanbul. As time goes by, the nurses are becoming more accustomed to responding to these disasters.
“We aren’t heroes,” he continues, smiling. “We are just trying to do what we can.”