Teen activists, future MPs swept away in Ankara attack

Dilay Gundogan

Istanbul (AFP) - They came from different backgrounds but died together -- the victims of the bombings in Ankara that killed 95 people ranged from teenage activists and a nine-year-old boy to candidates for parliament and a 70-year-old grandmother.

All were caught up in the single most devastating attack in modern Turkey on Saturday, October 10, at 10:04 am (0704 GMT) when two bombs detonated by suspected suicide bombers went off as activists gathered for a peace rally.

Images emerged on social media showing snaps of the happy life moments of the victims, ranging from a 70-year-old to 19-year-old students to party members, union workers and leftists activists.

The "labour, peace and democracy" rally that was the target of the blasts was called by a varied collection of groups including unions, NGOs, leftist associations and the pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP).

Among those killed was Meryem Bulut, 70, a member of "the Saturday Mothers", a group of mothers in search of their sons who allegedly went missing in police custody at the height of Turkey's anti-terror campaign in the southeast in the 1990s.

Bulut's grandson was killed last year fighting against Islamic State (IS) jihadists alongside Kurdish guerillas in the Sinjar mountains in northern Iraq.

Two generations younger, 19-year-old Elif Kanlioglu, was a second-year foreign languages major at Mersin University in southern Turkey.

She was the daughter of a local politician from the left-wing People's Labour Party (EMEP). She visited her parents in Aydin in the Aegean region before taking a bus to Ankara to attend the rally.

In a widely reproduced image, university student Dijle Deli shared a selfie with a group of young people travelling on a bus from Istanbul to Ankara to attend the rally hours before the attack.

"We are going to Ankara to bring peace," Deli wrote, with the smiling activists flashing victory signs.

- 'How could they do this?' -

The HDP, which is preparing to challenge in November 1 elections -- lost several key members.

Kubra Meltem Mollaoglu, 45, an HDP candidate from Istanbul was killed, as was HDP candidate from the Black Sea city of Giresun, Abdullah Erol, a father of two.

Mollaoglu's social media posts a day before the attack, including a selfie with HDP leader Selahattin Demirtas on a campaign bus, have been widely shared on Twitter.

She shared the selfie with the hashtag #in spite of everything #peace.

But the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) was also scarred by the tragedy.

The party announced that 11 members of its youth branch from the east Anatolian city of Malatya were killed.

Some of the victims featured in a selfie with CHP leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu at the Malatya airport following a rally in the city in June.

Shaken by the attack, Kilicdaroglu's voice quivered and he appeared close to tears when he reacted to Saturday's bloodshed.

Veysel Deniz Atilgan, 9, was killed along with his father, Ibrahim Atilgan, a worker for the state railway company TCDD who had been appointed to Ankara from Diyarbakir five years ago.

It was Veysel who asked his father to take him to the rally, the Hurriyet daily said.

Video footage showed his mother throwing herself to the ground in grief outside the hospital, screaming: "How could this have happened? How could they do this to my little boy? God, punish them."

Yılmaz Elmascan, an engine driver for TCCD, and his wife, Gulhan Elmascan, a teacher, lost their lives.

The young couple were married a year ago. A picture circulated on social media of the young couple smiling to the camera in their wedding outfits as they held each other's hands.

Palestinian Ahmed Alkhadi, who lived in the southern city of Antakya and was a member of an anti-war group there, was also killed. He taught English and Arabic to leftist activists in Antakya. It was not clear where his body will be sent as he has no relatives in Antakya.