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Turks Hope Government Will Ramp Up Fight Against Militants


In the aftermath of this week's terrorist attacks at the Istanbul airport, many Turks wonder if their government can protect them from ISIS and other groups. Turkish officials point to ISIS as the perpetrators of the violence. NPR's Leila Fadel sent this report.

LEILA FADEL, BYLINE: Police raided an apartment on this tree-lined street in a middle-class neighborhood of Istanbul where the attackers who blew themselves up at the airport had stayed.


FADEL: Neighbors say they never saw them walking in and out of that apartment. The local barber doesn't know anything about them other than what the media has reported, that they're foreign, that two are Russian and they lived right here.

HALID IPEK: (Foreign language spoken).

UNIDENTIFIED INTERPRETER: It is definitely scary to live somewhere, like, close and nearby with the bombers. But even the upstairs lady cried till morning she said.

FADEL: That's Halid Ipek, speaking to me through an interpreter. He owns the local mini market. Right now, police are pouring over his store's camera footage, looking for the men who lived just down the road.

IPEK: (Foreign language spoken).

FADEL: He says in the last three years, the neighborhood has changed. With the influx of Syrian refugees, many are renting furnished apartments on short-term leases. He welcomes them but it's driving up prices, he says. And it's also creating a space where people don't know their neighbors. And in light of what's happened, that's scary. He wants the government to be more vigilant.

IPEK: (Foreign language spoken).

UNIDENTIFIED INTERPRETER: They have to be more careful how these guns are coming in Turkey and, like, distributed to these people. So they have to be more careful giving a visa coming into Turkey. Like, people are coming in from the borders without any control and then this is what's happening.

FADEL: Turkey is in a difficult geographic position, a bridge between Europe and Asia. It shares a border with Syria and is home to nearly 3 million Syrian refugees who have fled the devastating war in their country. Many Turks criticize the government for not being vigilant enough about stopping militants traveling through Turkey to Syria to join groups like ISIS.

SOLI OZEL: It has been at best uncautious and at worst negligent.

FADEL: That's Soli Ozel, a Turkish columnist and professor at Kadir Has has University in Istanbul. He says the government immediately blaming ISIS, also known as IS, for the attack is a change.

OZEL: For the government, what this means is they can no longer equivocate or prevaricate about the fact that IS has actually declared war on Turkey. That’s why, unlike other times, they did not wait forever, and they did not try to present it as a so-called cocktail terror attack, but they identified IS as the perpetrator.

FADEL: Meanwhile, this attack and the three other bombings that preceded it in Istanbul are killing the tourism industry. The area around the beautiful domes and minarets of Istanbul's most famous mosques is pretty empty. Tuba Andic is showing around a family from California.

TUBA ANDIC: You know, our season starts, like, in the beginning of April and it didn't start this year (laughter). There's, yeah, no one.

FADEL: The family of five is her only client.

ANDIC: Normally, we have the lines, like, to put - to get into the Hagia Sophia. We have a very long line coming right nearby the bath here and there's no one, as you can see, inside, outside. Everywhere is like we privatized the places.

FADEL: She asks why have tourists stopped coming? They didn't stop going to Brussels or Paris. She has a message for them.

ANDIC: This is everywhere. This is a global problem now. And to solve this problem, internationally the people have to come together and to resist to this, otherwise they will win. So I recommend them keep coming. We are safe now (laughter). It's OK now.

FADEL: Until tourists do return, Andic is looking for other work. Leila Fadel, NPR News, Istanbul. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Leila Fadel is a national correspondent for NPR based in Los Angeles, covering issues of culture, diversity, and race.