On January 6th, in the afternoon a woman in black covers walked into a tourism-police station in the touristic heart of Istanbul, right in the vicinity of Hagia Sophia, Blue Mosque and Basilica Cistern. On a normal day, this area would be full of people regardless of the season; but as it has been colder than usual even for Istanbul, there were not that many people around.
The woman in black covers talks to the guards outside the station, then detonates the bomb and throws grenades, killing one policeman and injuring several others. Right after the explosion the area was cleared of civilians, and the initial inquiry started. Almost immediately in the aftermath, first details started flowing on social media timelines regarding the assailant and some were mentioning her to have spoken in English, and quotes from the taxi driver who took her to the area. The driver is reported to have said that she was speaking in Russian on the phone, and the witnesses are reported to have heard her speak in English, asking for help from the police for having her purse stolen.
Regardless of this information, the initial reporting of the incident in Turkish media included claims that this might be a follow up attack after the grenade attack to Dolmabahçe Palace on the first day of the year. In the attack where no one had died, the assailant was caught alive after a short clash with the police and was reported to have carried out the attack as a revenge for the teenager who was shot dead by the police during the Gezi Park protests.
Quickly afterwards, first full reporting on the suicide bomber started to appear on media; however there was a problem with the way it was being reported. Seeking pluralism in Turkish media might be too big of a demand perhaps, but at least there would be a slight difference in the rhetoric, wording or at least the typos between different news portals. Most media platforms published a story accusing a marxist leftist organization called Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party/Front (DHKP-C) for the suicide bombing. The reports were also showing photos of a young female student who had been detained in May 2014, for suspicion that she might become a suicide bomber.
Of course, the Marxist group’s declaration claiming the attack must have been confusing for most of the audience as well; yet there were too many flows in this story with regards to the type of the attack. DHKP-C’s style focuses more onto pre-election period “failed attacks” creating the perfect atmosphere for the government to play the “victim card” to a radicalized electorate; secondly most media portals had published the same exact story (including the typos in the articles) around the same time, adding fuel to a media manipulation game. Next flow was the fact that initial witness statements had been completely omitted and ignored from the news articles, with regards to the qualities of the assailant.
The parents of the supposed assailant were brought to have a look at the dead body for confirmation of their daughter’s death; however after this examination the parents said this young woman they see in the morgue was not their daughter. Prior to this examination, the Istanbul Police HQ had declared a statement revealing that the identity of the assailant might be a different person. Now the body has been transferred to the forensic analysis department, for DNA tests.
At the moment, the suspicion revolves around the assailant being a Russian citizen named Diana Ramazova and the intelligence detectives say they are focusing on the possibilities of this person having any connection with ISIS and roots in Chechnya, with possible links to a group in Russia previously known as “Black Widows”. Ramazova had been living in Istanbul, was married with children and was pregnant at the time of the detonation of the bomb. Some analysts have interpreted the attack as a reaction to Turkish-Russian convergence in recent months.
In the aftermath of this new information being revealed, DHKP-C published a new statement cancelling and calling off all public protests that had previously been called. While majority of the media readers still consider the Marxist organization to be guilty of the suicide bombing and declare the most recent investigation and evidence-based reports as “media and perception manipulation attempts by international provocateurs”.