An explosion took the lives of at least 32 people and injured 104 more on Monday in the Suruç district of Turkey’s southeastern province of Şanlıurfa, which is located some 10 kilometers north of Syrian town of Kobani.
The victims of the blast were on their way to the Syrian Kurdish town of Kobani to build a children’s playground and day centre. Most of the dead were university students with the Federation of Socialist Youths, who had been planning the mission to help rebuild Kobane, which was retaken by Kurds from ISIS militants earlier this year. The bomb exploded as their press conference was ending.
The attacker, named by local media as Seyh Abdurrahman Alagoz, was an ethnic Kurd from Turkey’s south-eastern province of Adiyaman. Alagoz had travelled to Syria and received training with Islamic State. Alagöz’s identification card was found with the remains of his body at the scene. A vehicle brought Alagöz to the Amara Cultural Center, where a group of activists from the Federation of Socialist Youth Associations (SGDF) who were giving their statement to the press when the explosion took place. The daily shared that it is believed two other people were in the car, the driver and a 19-year-old woman identified as Özlem Yılmaz. It is suspected that she acted as a lookout but escaped during the incident.
Using DNA, authorities have identified Alagoz as the perpetrator of the attack. Alagoz had been abroad for the last six months, according to his family. He had last seen his family before the month of Ramadan. Officials said he and his older brother Yunus Emre are affiliated with the Islamic State terrorist group. Yunus Emre, who disappeared after declaring he was going to attend college in 2013, returned in 2014. He opened a “tea house” in Adiyaman and began religious activities
Çagla Seven holds the hand of her friend who later died
Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu announced a few hours later that he had ordered “a third wave” of raids against the IS in Syria and a “second wave” of strikes against the PKK in northern Iraq — which were ongoing.
Abdurrahman Alagoz is the second person from Adiyaman whom police have identified as IS suicide bombers in the past 45 days. Orhan Gonder, who is suspected of carrying out an attack at the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) political rally in Diyarbakir in June, is also from Adiyaman.
Adiyaman, which is in southeastern Turkey, is a strongly conservative city. Since a 1980 military coup, right-wing conservative parties have dominated its elections. Since 2002, the Justice and Development Party (AKP) has been the top winner. Although a Kurdish deputy was elected in 2015, the AKP is still dominant.
According to writer-historian Sahidin Simsek, the city has been used as a laboratory. He told Al-Monitor that the Kurdish identity, manipulated by the state, plays a major part in today’s political makeup of the area. He said, “The state formulated a Sunni Kurd identity that hates Kurdism and equates Kurdism with Alevism. Those people are working hard to keep themselves distant from Kurds. But, when the right wing couldn’t entice the masses, the state mobilized several congregations that coordinate closely with the state. You have people who detest Kurdism, but adhere to Islamism [political Islam]. For them the next step is [the Islamic State].”
Osman Suzen, chief of the Adiyaman branch of Turkey’s Human Rights Association, thinks differently. Suzen told Al-Monitor that these religious organizations find adherents through their continuing activities, with economic hardships in the region and the state’s turning a blind eye also being factors. Suzen said, “Religious congregations have been exceptionally active for [the] past seven to eight years. The environment is conducive to their objectives. It is a city of menial laborers, of poor people. It is not that hard to find supporters from that level of poverty.
“The state tolerates it. If people know how these organizations operate, how they meet and how they recruit, doesn’t the state know it? Families have complained that their children are joining these organizations. Some children have come back. We know they are back but nobody investigated where they have been. Sure, the conservative makeup of the city plays a part, but I think families, because of their economic needs, keep quiet and don’t report. They get money from these organizations.”
Suzen estimates there are 300 people from Adiyaman with IS today. He added that the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) have IS prisoners who came from Adiyaman.