Brother of Istanbul attack victim: ′No faith in justice′ | Europe| News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 01.01.2018
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Brother of Istanbul attack victim: 'No faith in justice'

A year ago, doorman Fatih Cakmak was shot dead during a terrorist attack at the Reina nightclub in Istanbul, Turkey. His family members regard him as a hero — but they feel abandoned in their grief.

The Cakmak family is having its traditional picnic, yet nothing is as it was before. One of the five siblings is dead — murdered by an Islamist terrorist. "I have no idea how we got through this past year," insists Zafer Cakmak. "We're still numb."

His younger brother, Fatih Cakmak, was one of 39 victims of the attack on the Istanbul nightclub Reina, which took place on New Year's Eve 2016. The doorman worked for the company that provided the security personnel. To his friends and family, Fatih is a hero: He died trying to protect others. But they feel as if they're all alone in their grief. No one, it seems, wants to thank them for what their son and brother did.

'He loved his work'

The Cakmak family comes from Elazig in southeastern Turkey. Fatih and his brothers and sisters grew up in Mersin on the Turkish Mediterranean coast. The middle son, he didn't do particularly well at school, and there was no thought of him going on to further education. But he found a job — and a career — in the security industry, which he soon came to enjoy. His elder brother Zafer Cakmak doesn't remember Fatih ever complaining about his work, even though he sometimes worked on public holidays as well.

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Fatih always took his work as a doorman and security guard very seriously, his brother says. He was never the pushy type; in an argument, he would try to mediate. And he was conscientious: He went on doing his job, even after it put his life in danger.

Attack in Besiktas

On December 10, 2016 — three weeks before the Reina night club attack — 34-year-old Fatih Cakmak was assigned to a football stadium for the premier league soccer match between Besiktas Istanbul and Bursaspor. Cakmak was a soccer fan, and stadium deployments were his favorites — although he liked it best when he was working at "his" club, city rivals Galatasaray. At the end of the assignment in Besiktas, Cakmak and his colleagues were on their way back from the stadium by bus.

Fatih Cakmak and Zinedine Zidane (Privat)

A personal photo of Fatih Cakmak with French football star Zinedine Zidane

As the bus turned into the crossroads in front of the Dolmabahce Palace, a car bomb went off. Shortly afterwards, an attacker blew himself up in a nearby park. At least 44 people died in the Besiktas attacks, including 30 police. The Cakmak family says they panicked when they heard the news — but Fatih survived.

Wrestled with attacker

Three weeks after the attack in Besiktas, on New Year's Eve 2016, Fatih Cakmak was already back at work as a security guard in the Reina nightclub, where he worked on a temporary basis. At first it was just a few days a week, later almost every day. The only days he didn't come in were when he was deployed at concerts or football games.

Zafer Cakmak says he's spoken with eyewitnesses to the events of that New Year's Eve. They told him that his younger brother threw himself on the attacker as he came through the door. They wrestled with each other, and Fatih succeeded in knocking the man's gun out of his hand. But then shots were fired. From where, no one knows. Fatih was hit eight times.

Read more: Tourism drop in the city on the Bosporus

Weak security measures

His family is suing the Reina nightclub for 1.2 million Turkish lira (about 265,000 euros) compensation for pain and suffering. The family is convinced that the club bears some of the responsibility for the massacre. They say the attack was made possible because of inadequate security measures.

Turkish soldier guards the Renia nightclub Istanbul (picture alliance/dpa/E.Gurel)

After the attack a year ago, special forces secured the nightclub Reina - but that was too late for the victims

In their statement before the court, the family said: "The management had failed to take security measures, even though it had been warned that an attack of this kind was possible. In this way it made itself partly responsible."

The owners have admitted that they were in fact warned about an attack, ten days earlier. Nonetheless, eyewitnesses reported that the police presence was very low compared to other places in the city.

'No hope of getting justice'

Fatih's brother Zafer Cakmak told DW there are still a lot of unanswered questions. "The Reina is like a fortress. How could this person get in there with a gun? If he was assuming he would probably die in the attack, he would have strapped a bomb to his body."

The "Islamic State" (IS) armed group has claimed responsibility for the attack. Security measures for this year’s New Year celebrations in Istanbul were tightened considerably, due to fears of more attacks. According to media reports, hundreds of suspected extremist militants were arrested in Turkey in the days leading up to the New Year.

The trial of the principal suspect in the 2016 attacks and his 56 alleged accomplices began on December 11. The defendant, a 34-year-old Uzbek man, is charged with murder and "attempting to overthrow the constitutional order." He faces up to 40 life sentences.

But Zafer Cakmak has little faith in the justice system. The trial in the Reina case is a farce, he says: They're just trying to bring the matter to a conclusion. "I have no hope that justice will be done," the victim's brother told DW.

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