After-work drinks and Facebook posts: The residents of Izmir defy terrorism in their own way. Senada Sokollu reports from the Turkish port city.
It's raining buckets in Izmir, the port city in western Turkey. Amid thunder and lightning, people are scurrying through the streets. They are dressed in raincoats, and their hats are pulled down to cover their faces. Restaurants and cafes are well patronized. Friends meet for an after-work drink at the famous Kordon promenade; couples enjoy their dinner. There's nothing out of the ordinary happening in the streets right now - no police as far as the eye can see, no controls, no road blocks.
Just a few hours have passed since the car bomb explosion in front of the Izmir courthouse which claimed the lives of four people, including two attackers. Even so, the people of Izmir do what they always do in the evening: over a drink, they gossip about recent events in Turkey. The majority check their mobile phones by the minute, incessantly keeping an eye on the most recent Twitter or Facebook updates. Grinning, they pose for selfies and post them: "We are not afraid. We will keep on living our lives," a young Turkish woman writes on Facebook.
'We won't give the terrorists what they want'
As usual, Ahmet A. meets up with his friend in his favorite bar. They talk about their jobs and their families. He refuses to change his lifestyle, says the 55-year-old. "We just have to accept what is happening in Turkey now. It's part of our lives, and in life you have to put up with whatever is coming your way," Ahmet A. tells DW. Man is a creature of habit, the Turk ventures. "After the Paris terror attacks, I was there. The French refused to have their lifestyle taken away from them. So why should we give up ours?" asks Ahmet A.
Zehra Gurel supports that point of view. Originally, the young Turkish woman had planned to stay at home tonight. "I then went out, out of defiance. I'm just going for a walk on my own in the pouring rain because I don't want the terrorists to rejoice. They shouldn't get what they wanted. These people want to intimidate us all. But I'm not afraid," says Gurel. Of course what happened was horrible, she says: "A lot of my acquaintances now watch the news on TV and prefer to stay at home. But I believe it doesn't make much sense if we all hide in our flats," she tells DW.
'An attack in Izmir? No one could really believe it'
Izmir is the third-largest city in Turkey and had, until Thursday, been spared from the recent wave of terror attacks. People here are known for their habit of enjoying alcohol. Many are proud supporters of the founder of the Republic, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk. A local young Turk sporting an Ataturk tattoo is not a rare sight. In addition, Izmir is a stronghold of the main opposition party CHP (Republican People's Party), and many residents are fierce critics of the ruling AKP government. So people here had been asking themselves for quite some time: when will terror reach out for us?
Nonetheless, no one had been able to believe what happened now, says 30-year-old Sinan. He was on the spot at the time of the explosion. "Everyone was talking about a major car accident or some technical fault when we saw the plumes of smoke. Then someone approached us and said it was a terror attack. We all shook our heads and denied that. A terrorist attack in Izmir? No one could really believe that," Sinan tells DW.
Just a matter of habit?
It was the first time he witnessed something like that, says Sinan. "Until now, Istanbul has been the main target of such attacks. Many of my friends who live there either decided to move from Istanbul to Izmir, or they somehow got used to those incidents. But we, the residents of Izmir, still haven't managed to do that," Sinan explains. He and his friends had canceled restaurant reservations for Friday night, he adds: "We are not going to pretend that what's happening here is nothing out of the ordinary. We will stay at home for the next couple of days."
The young couple, Zeynep and Murat, sees things differently. "There are now incidents in Turkey on a regular basis. All of us have become used to it by now. Be it Istanbul, Ankara, or Izmir, it doesn't matter - terror means terror," Zeynep, who studies French, says. It was an everyday reality and something people in Turkey had to live with, she adds. "We are obliged to live our lives like before," says Murat, although terror had now reached Izmir as well: "Izmir is Turkey's most Western city. We've always felt so safe here."