As Turkey started the new year with an armed attack on a popular İstanbul nightclub that killed at least 39, including 24 foreign nationals, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan issued a statement saying that such attacks aim to create chaos.
Erdoğan vowed to fight against “dirty plots,” in reference to terrorist attacks that have become almost frequent in the country.
Meanwhile, several pro-Erdoğan journalists have already started blaming the US for the attack. In addition, a ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) deputy, Şamil Tayyar, wrote on Twitter that until Obama leaves office, all American diplomats in Turkey must remain under close watch.
However, it was the US Embassy in Ankara that issued a security warning last week on possible attacks on New Year’s Eve. The owner of the targeted Reina nightclub, Mehmet Koçarslan, claimed that due to “American intelligence,” Turkish security units had been taking measures for the last 10 days around the club.
As the perpetrator of the attack has not yet been determined, there has been criticism of the government on social media for allowing a campaign to be waged against New Year’s celebrations by the political Islamist media and even in mosques.
In the run-up to New Year’s Eve, Turkey’s Directorate of Religious Affairs (DİB) issued a Friday sermon to be preached in all mosques in Turkey on Dec. 30 declaring such celebrations to be “illegitimate” since such festivities belong to “other cultures.”
Staunchly pro-government papers published cartoons and headlines that criticized Santa Claus and New Year’s festivities, often confusing them with Christmas celebrations.
Few days before New Year’s Eve, a banner believed to have been hung on a street in İstanbul’s İkitelli district that shows a man with a Muslim cap and beard punching Santa and suggesting Muslims not take part in Christmas and New Year’s celebrations has drawn ire among Twitter users.
A Twitter account under the pseudonym of TurkeyUntold said: “[Turkish President] Erdoğan’s policy of intolerance in one banner that has been seen in İstanbul: We are Muslims. No to Christmas & New Year’s Eve celebrations.”
Following the attack that killed at least 39 including 24 foreign nationals, President of the DİB Mehmet Görmez on Sunday condemned the attack, saying there is no difference between targeting an entertainment venue or a temple and that no terrorist attack is acceptable.
Thirty-five of the victims have been identified thus far, and police are continuing to search for the assailant.