Thousands packed into Reina Nightclub to beckon in the New Year. Located in Istanbul, one Turkey’s cosmopolitan cities, the breathtaking club was packed with soap opera stars, professional athletes, elite Turks and opulent tourists partying together, away from the chaos and violence gripping the nation. Unfortunately, at around 1:30 (local time) in the morning, a lone gunman entered the building and murdered dozens. “One person first kills the police officer outside, and then a civilian,” Mr. Sahin, an eyewitness recalled. “Inside, he rained bullets brutally, mercilessly over innocent people who were there just to celebrate the New Year and have fun.” A nationwide manhunt is currently underway as officials are unable to identify or apprehend the gunman.
Currently, no group has claimed responsibility for the brutal attack, which ultimately killed at least 39 people (including 25 foreigners). However, both Turkish officials and the international community strongly suspect the Islamic State was responsible for the attack, or at least influenced the gunman.
The attack on Sunday morning was the second one in two weeks. These constant assaults brutally highlight a problem for Turkey’s autocratic president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan. His efforts to silence his opponents and implement security measures have not deterred assailants. Because of this, the rattled country is being increasingly ripped apart amid terrorist attacks and political instability. Ultimately, citizens pay the price. “Terrorism is everywhere now,” said Zeynep Ozman, whose brother was wounded in the attack. “The government has no control. Something needs to be done. There is no life left in Istanbul.”
To make matters worse, foreign influences are tearing the country apart as well. Turkey has been swamped with the dark and subversive forces gripping the Middle East region–terrorism, the migrant crisis, and the rise of authoritarianism. Most detrimental, however, is the raging war against the Islamic State in Syria. Because of Turkey’s opposition to the terror group, threats against Turkey from the Islamic State and its supporters have significantly increased.
All these issues have degraded the country’s economy. “Nothing that the government is doing is helping make Turkey more secure,” said Asli Aydintasbas, a prominent Turkish writer and a fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations. “The crackdown on domestic dissidents is further destabilizing the country, and when it is not destabilizing, it is increasing the dangerous polarization here.” There has been a sharp decline in Western tourists, leading to a degradation in tourism and foreign investment.
President Erdogan was quick to smoothen the situation. “They are working to destroy our country’s morale and create chaos by deliberately targeting our nation’s peace and targeting civilians with these heinous attacks,” he said. “We will retain our coolheadedness as a nation, standing more closely together, and we will never give ground to such dirty games.” Regardless of his attempts to soothe people’s fears, many are questioning how capable he and the Turkish government are at keeping the country safe.