Neighborhood attackers count on impunity and brothers

Neighborhood attackers count on impunity and brothers

The first incident was on Sept. 21, 2010, when a group of 20 to 30 people with sticks in their hands smashed glasses and windows of art galleries along Boğazkesen Street in Istanbul’s Tophane. They injured those attending an opening. Their reason was that they were drinking. 

On May 9, 2014, in Istanbul’s Tophane again, in Hacımimi neighborhood, a group attacked the opening of a graffiti exhibition “Erör” at Mixer Art Gallery with sticks in their hands. Their reason was that the guests were drinking alcohol. 

On Feb. 21, 2015, in front of the Daire Art Gallery in Tophane, a group of 15 people attacked the opening of an exhibition. Their reason, this time, was the public display of affection by a couple in front of the gallery. The attackers said they did not like this behavior because it was “adverse to our culture.” They wanted the woman to apologize; but when she refused they told her: “You are a woman; come here and we will explain how you should apologize.” 

On Feb. 2, 2016, a group of 30 people attacked people who were sitting on the Rome Stairs in Istanbul’s Cihangir with sticks and bottles. They fired their guns several times in the air. The same group verbally abused people sitting in nearby cafes. 

On June 17, 2016, a group from Tophane attacked a Radiohead event at a venue called Velvet Indiegroun Records. The reason was drinking during Ramadan. The group threatened participants and battered young people in the venue. 

And the last incident happened on June 9, 2017 when two people were quarreling over a dog at a parking lot in Cihangir and a passerby, identified as Ahmet M., intervened with an iron stick in his hand, injuring one in the head. 

This park in Cihangir was donated to the municipality by its owner so that children and dogs can use the space; however, in the past couple of years a group here has been verbally abusing dog owners. But the issue is not the dog. Their logic is that “these people have dogs; they are single and they drink. First they should have a child.” 

“I am from Tophane. I will not let you live here,” the attacker Ahmet M. had said. This discourse is very parallel to the previous assailants. Ahmet M. does not fear the police. He said: “Call the police. My name is Ahmet M. What can the police do to me? I have brothers. The state protects me.” 

You can take a look at their website and read a couple of posts to understand what is going on in the neighborhood. One post draws attention to a story in the Islamist daily Yeni Akit: “Daily Yeni Akit wrote about the scandalous situation of café and bars that sell alcohol at Tophane and around the mosques there.” 

Another story on the website reflects the approach toward art galleries: “Tophane, known for its historic fountains and venues, has been subjected to several robbery attempts. Especially after the opening of art galleries and hostels in the neighborhood, robberies have increased.” 

These incidents that have rapidly increased in years in Cihangir are not singular or coincidental incidents. The attackers always mention some brothers they rely on. Who are these brothers? Who are they encouraged by? How come they enjoy impunity? If this is intimidation then they are quite successful. 

Some of Cihangir’s residents have left the neighborhood, the remaining ones are saying: “We live in Cihangir, where else can we go? If we are seeking for a free environment, the address is Cihangir; but here there is an incident every day, or some serious tension.”