Istanbul deserted after suicide attack: Four looks around the city
İdris Emen – Birce Altay / ISTANBULIstanbul has fallen into silence after the deadly suicide attack in one of the city’s most lively spots, Istiklal Avenue, on March 19, which killed five and left at least 39 wounded. Police closed Taksim and its environs to both vehicle and pedestrian traffic after the attack. Many tourists opted to stay in their hotels during day while other shopping and entertainment spots of the city experienced an unusual Saturday night.
Here are four impressions from Istanbul’s top spots in the aftermath of the suicide attack.
After reports about one suicide bomber escaping after the attack on Istiklal Avenue surfaced, the streets of Beşiktaş were immediately emptied. However, even after the reports were proved to be false, many spots in Beşiktaş were empty throughout the day as many reservations were canceled in entertainment spots in the district.
“Normally Beşiktaş would be jam-packed on Saturdays. However, today it is so silent and tranquil. People are afraid of going out. Our regular customers did not come today. Many customers have canceled their reservations for today,” one shopkeeper said adding that it was an unusual Saturday for the district.
One taxi driver in the district also said that the main roads of the city were empty compared to the normal rush one usually sees in Istanbul.
“Normally we could not even move due to traffic at this hour. However, I drove to Sultanahmet, Eminönü, Kabataş and Beşiktaş within a half an hour. Everywhere is empty.”
Another false report on a bomb attack in the city’s elite neighborhood of Nişantaşı at the same time as the Taksim bombing caused the area to fall silent.
A shopkeeper in the neighborhood said that it was the first time he had seen Nişantaşı this deserted.
“I have been a tradesman here for 20 years. This is the first time I see Nişantaşı so deserted. A number of tourist groups, especially Iranians, have been shopping here before Taksim attack. Tourists retreated to their hotels right after the attack and Nişantaşı was evacuated in an instant. People have already been holding back from touring and shopping in Nişantaşı for a while. They have become to be afraid to go out after today’s attack.”
The suicide attack has also showed its unfortunate effect on the Asian side of the city. One of the disctrict’s main transportation arteries, Ayrılık Çeşmesi metro station, was quite deserted around 7 p.m. as well as ferry piers, which are always crowded with passengers bound for Beşiktaş, Karaköy and Eminönü.
Some shops in central Kadıköy were also closed early and usually crowded coffee shops were empty.
One employee at a local coffee shop in the district said the crowded streets had already gradually began to be emptied after the March 13 attack in Ankara and with the most recent attack, it became almost empty.
One grocery owner also said that he could not sell much since 10 a.m. and believed that the situation would go like this for a while.
The historical side of the city was also emptier compared to the regular crowd usually found in front of the historic Yeni Camii and Spice Bazaaar on March 20. The overall traffic density in Istanbul also decreased as never before after the attack, measuring only at six percent according to figures from the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality.