Istanbul airport attack victims mourned, honored, praised

ISTANBUL (AP) — A young man whose last Facebook post said “we are safe.” A baggage porter just doing his job. A Palestinian woman and her 3-year-old son on a Ramadan vacation, whose death is being grieved by their injured husband and father.

Victims of Tuesday night’s attack at Istanbul’s main airport have left behind mourning friends and relatives who are struggling to deal with their losses. Here are some of their stories:


Mahmut Cizmecioglu worked with Zedynep, his wife of two years, at ground services in Istanbul’s Ataturk International Airport. His death left those who loved him striving to deal with the tragedy.

“We miss you already,” wrote one friend on social media. “We’re trying to be all right. we’re trying to figure out what to do without you, but can’t come up with anything.”

Cizmecioglu hailed from the southeastern province of Sanliurfa and graduated from Anadolu University in the northwestern province of Eskisehir. A funeral service was held for him in central Istanbul.


The Amiri family arrived in Istanbul’s Ataturk International Airport Tuesday night for their first visit to Turkey. According to Turkish daily Yeni Safak, the ethnic Uzbek Saudi nationals had received their Turkish citizenship a month ago and had come to visit relatives in Istanbul.

A father of eight, Abdulmumin Amiri came his wife Hacira, son Muhammed, daughters Kerime, Zehra and Meryem and granddaughter Huda. As they waited outside the international arrivals Kerime, Zehra, Meryem and Huda were caught up in the deadly suicide blast that killed dozens. They were 24, 18, 14 and 9 years old respectively.

The father said that the family was walking together until he went to look for a cart. “At that time the bomb went off.

“I ran to them,” he said, wearily. “Two of them were wounded, while four of them had lost their lives.”

A funeral service was held for the family in Istanbul on Thursday.


After breaking his Ramadan fast with a snack, Habibullah Sefer, 26, went to Istanbul’s Ataturk International Airport to greet a friend arriving from abroad. He was killed shortly after.

His aunt, Jamila Ozturk, said Sefer had been looking forward to a bigger meal with his friend later in the evening but “as he walked into the arrival area the bomb went off.”

An Afghan national, Sefer lived in Istanbul where he owned a textile store. He graduated from the Karadeniz Technical University’s Business School last year. A funeral service was held for him in the Turkish metropolis


Yasin Ocal, 25, had worked as a baggage porter at Istanbul’s Ataturk International Airport for the past five years. Critically wounded in the head during Tuesday night’s shooting and bombing attack, he became its 44th victim, dying Thursday while being treated at a local hospital.

He left behind his wife of one year. He will be buried in his native community of Yozgat in central Anatolia.


Goksel Kurnaz, 38, was outside the airport and inside his car when the attackers struck, killing him. Employed by a private security firm in Istanbul, he had arrived at the airport to pick up his boss from a trip abroad. He had been married for two years. Joining his grieving wife for the funeral were his parents who flew from their home in the northern province of Ordu.


Teacher Huseyin Tunc, 28, had a difficult childhood. Having lost his father at the age of 5, he grew up having to “collect bread out in the streets,” according to his mother. As a legacy of his hardscrabble past, Tunc, who worked as electronics teacher at an Istanbul trade school for the past three years, was paying for his siblings’ education.

His life ended shortly after Tunc arrived at Istanbul’s Ataturk International Airport to pick up some friends. Family, friends, students and colleagues gathered at his funeral Thursday in Istanbul.


Abdulhekim Bugda, 24, was just a month and a half into his job in grand services at Istanbul’s Ataturk International Airport when he was killed Tuesday night.

As the first gunshots rang out, Bugda wrote “we are safe” on Facebook, reassuring friends and family. “Then in the morning we heard he was in critical condition,” friend Adil Batur told reporters. “We arrived at the Bakirkoy State Hospital and learned he had passed.”

The youngest of four siblings, Bugda had lost his father at a very young age. He belonged to an ethnic group from northwest China, and many members of that community attended his funeral in Istanbul, as well as family members.


Ferhat Akkaya’s wife wept. Her husband, a father of three, had gone to Istanbul’s Ataturk Airport to see off a friend only to be caught up in the attacks Tuesday night and killed. As he was being buried Thursday, she and the children didn’t want to let him go, and held on tight to his coffin.

Other relatives during services at Akkaya’s hometown in the northern province of Ordu railed against Turkish authorities, blaming them for failing to ensure airport security.

“Damn it! The state should hear our voices and take the necessary precautions,” said Ferhat Kabakci, the victim’s brother-in-law. “Now a widow and three orphans have been left behind. Who will look after them?”


Translator Ertan An, 39, arrived at Istanbul’s Ataturk International Airport on Tuesday night to send off a five-person tour group from Uzbekistan when the bombings and gunfire hit. He left behind a child and a wife six months into her next pregnancy.

An’s funeral was held at a cemevi, the house of worship for Turkey’s Alevite religious minority, in the Pertek district of eastern Tunceli province.


Ercan Sebat had loved to draw since childhood. Working with a charcoal pencil, Sebat even held several exhibitions. But the 41-year-old’s talent was snuffed out along with his life in the attacks Tuesday night at Istanbul’s Ataturk Airport.

On Thursday, his mother Rukiye could not contain her grief.

“They’ve torn out my lungs,” she wailed at her son’s funeral in Istanbul. “They tore to pieces my rose of a son, they dashed my spirit!”

Sebat had worked as a passenger services officer at the international airport’s ground services division for nearly two years. His brother Ertugrul also wept Thursday while hugging Ercan’s coffin, which was draped in a Turkish flag. His father, Mahmut, was rushed to hospital after growing faint at the service.


Yusuf Haznedaroglu and Nilsu Ozmeric of Turkey were looking forward to their wedding less than two weeks away. On Thursday, Ozmeric stood weeping over her fiance’s coffin, her engagement ring dangling from her neck.

His mother also mourned at a service in Istanbul. “The wedding was next week,” Cervinye Haznedaroglu sobbed as visitors came to offer condolences. “You came at the wrong time.”

Haznedaroglu, 32, began working at Ataturk Airport’s ground services department last year. He died in a hospital after suffering critical injuries from the attack while waiting for a bus to go home.


Friends of Ozgul Ide, 21, were devastated by the young woman’s death in Tuesday’s suicide attacks on Istanbul’s main airport.

“At just 21 … still so young, far too young to die,” wrote one former classmate on her Facebook page. “I’m so sad, I haven’t been able to stop crying all day.”

A workplace friend wrote: “May you make it into heaven my dear colleague… you left us far too early. We will not forget you, Ozgul.”

After moving from Turkey’s southeastern province of Batman to Istanbul 12 years ago with her family, Ide graduated from the Tourism and Hotel Management department at Istanbul’s Arel University. She began working at the airport’s ground services department six months ago.


Turkish customs officer Umut Sakaroglu, 31, died while trying to stop Tuesday’s suicide attack at Istanbul’s Ataturk International Airport — but social media have made sure that he will not be forgotten.

After firing at one of the three armed gunmen attacking the airport and wounding him, Sakaroglu died when the attacker detonated his suicide vest. Social media pages commemorating his deed are calling him a “hero” who is “immortal.”

One of five siblings, Sakaroglu came from the southern province of Hatay, where his parents run a cafe.


Palestinian officials say Sondos Shraim and her 3-year-old son, Rayan, both succumbed to their wounds Thursday. They were in Istanbul for a Ramadan vacation along with her husband, who was injured.

Already listed as dead Wednesday was a family friend, Nisreen Melhim, 28. She too was looking forward to a few days of vacation along with her husband and their 3-year-old daughter.

Melhim and her husband worked in Saudi Arabia and planned to relax in the city before flying home to Palestine for Ramadan. They were caught up in the terror attacks shortly after the family left the arrivals terminal and was heading toward the taxi stand.

“We heard shooting from a distance,” said Marvan, Nisreen’s husband. “The explosion went off. I found my wife bleeding and my daughter too.”

Nisreen died in hospital shortly afterward, leaving her husband shocked and mourning. “The ones who did this are brutal criminals,” he said. “How come they kill innocent people?”


Though he had moved to Istanbul to work at the Ataturk International Airport, Adem Kurt, 32, made it a point to visit his family in the northwestern province of Bursa every weekend. He had worked at the airport as part of supervisory staff for nearly two years before the attacks that claimed his life, cutting short reported plans for his engagement and future marriage.

His family held a service in front of their home in Bursa on Wednesday before the funeral moved to the mosque.


Uzbek national Abrorjon Ustabayev, 22, was a trader who frequently visited the country to buy wares to sell back home. Ustabayev had arrived at Istanbul’s Ataturk International Airport Tuesday night with $12,000 worth of textiles when he was caught up in the attacks.

Close friend Kemal Han said that he had spoken by phone with Ustabayev shortly before the attacks.

“He loved Turkey and had many dreams,” Han told the state-run Anatolia news agency. “Terrorism destroyed both those dreams and his love of Turkey.”


Caglayan Col, 26, began working at Ataturk International Airport’s ground services in 2014. He was killed as he waited for the bus to take him home.

After studying biology at Osmangazi University in the northwestern province of Eskisehir, Col had moved to Istanbul. But his frequent visits to his village were remembered by everyone back home. “Caglayan was beloved by all,” Baspinar village administrator Kazim Korkmaz told the state-run Anatolia news agency.

Col would frequently comment on social media about his patriotism. One such tweet read, “While my head might generally be volatile, my blood is not. Sure, I might occasionally have emotional ups and downs, (but) my heart has belonged to my country ever since my father first thought of me.”

His friends took to social media to commemorate Col and condemn the terrorist attack. “Could this really be happening? He was just making a living,” wrote Serkan Ozmen.


Two days after the attack Saudi Arabia says that subsequent checks on its citizens show that three Saudis were killed, correcting earlier reporting that six Saudis had been killed.

Saudi Arabia’s consulate in Istanbul said Thursday that four of the six originally thought to be Saudi citizens were passengers on a Saudi Airlines flight, but turned out to be Afghan and Turkish passport holders. They also said that another Saudi who had been wounded in the attack had since died. Saudi authorities did not name the Saudi victims.


Col. Fathi Bayoudth was struck down by the attacks while apparently attending to family business.

Quoting security sources in Tunis and Ankara, the Tunisian publication Business News said the Tunisian military doctor was in Istanbul to meet his son who had joined the Islamic State extremist group in Syria and had been seen in the conflict zone.

His family, with the help of Tunisian intelligence, convinced him to leave the group and return home via Istanbul, the publication said. The son, in his 20s, was arrested by Turkish authorities for extradition to Tunis, it reported.

The Tunisian Foreign Ministry confirmed the death of Bayoudth, head of the pediatric service at the Tunis military hospital. But officials would not elaborate, saying details were personal and additional information had to come from the family.


Murat Gulluce adored his four daughters, referring to them as his “princesses” on social media. Now, they are fatherless.

Critically wounded in the attack, Gulluce was rushed to a hospital but doctors were unable to save him.

Writing of the loss on Facebook, his sister, Ayse Nur Gulluce Cakar, described him as “my dear older brother whom I used to refer to as father… I cannot endure such pain.”

Originally from the eastern province of Erzurum, Gulluce had moved to Istanbul and worked as a jeweler. Later, he travelled to Uzbekistan where he started a greenhouse cultivation business. Dissatisfied with his work abroad, he returned to Istanbul and began working as a hotel manager. On Tuesday night he had arrived at the airport to fly to Uzbekistan.


Muhammed Eymen Demirci, 25, felt fortunate to have finally found work so he could help pay for his two younger sisters’ education.

Hoping to one day become a cabin steward, Demirci graduated from Istanbul University’s Public Relations Department but was unable to find any employment for over a year. He was ecstatic to finally be hired by the airport’s ground services in May, texting his friends “I got the job bro!”

But on Tuesday night, while waiting for the bus to take him home after his shift, Demirci was killed by one of the suicide bombs.

Childhood friend Deniz Dogan had helped Demirci prepare for the job exam and reassured him throughout the process. “He was such a friendly person, a man who fought for his ideals,” Dogan told the AP, “Now I wish he hadn’t gotten the job.”

A black belt in taekwondo and an excellent football player, Demirci’s loved ones noted he was as passionate about sports as he was about life and work. His funeral took place on Wednesday in Istanbul’s Basakshir neighborhood.


Ukrainian Larisa Tsybakova, 46 was at the airport together with her husband, according to the Ukrainian consul in Istanbul, Vasyl Bodnar. Bodnar said she died of blood loss after receiving a leg wound, but provided no other details.

Ukrainian news reports said that Tsybakova, a resident of the Black Sea port of Odessa, was making a vacation trip to Turkey with her husband and son.


Waiting for fares in front of Istanbul’s Ataturk International Airport’s passenger terminal was routine for taxi driver Mustafa Biyikli, 51. And that’s how he died Tuesday night.

The veteran cabbie was a father of three. “There is no justice,” said daughter Oznur Buzakci tas she waited to retrieve her father’s body from the Forensic Medicine Institute.

Wrapped in a Turkish flag, his coffin was brought before the Taxi Drivers’ Cooperative for a memorial service before burial. He was one of three drivers reported killed and 11 wounded in the attack.

At funeral services for his colleagues. Erol Eskisoy, 44 and Ali Zulfukar Yorulmaz, 48, other cab drivers shouted out slogans condemning terrorism. “We are all very sad,” said Orhan Gul. Seyfullah Dikbuyuk, 36, called Eskisoy a friend with a great sense of humor and a “good man, very humble. He didn’t care about money.”


In her own words, Gulsen Bahadir, 28, was a lover not a fighter.

Last week she had written on Facebook, “Never in my life have I fought, never. Not for the things I wanted, not for myself, not for my loved ones, not for the things life has denied me, not for when I faced injustice. I made this choice not because I lacked the strength but because I chose not to. Instead I chose to resist, because I do not believe fighting yields any results. There are no winners in war, only losers. They are the only ones that remain, the only ones that are remembered.”

An employee at Ataturk International Airport, Bahadir was critically wounded by a bullet and rushed to a hospital but doctors were unable to save her.

She was an only child. Her mother Fahriye Bahadir was in tears during her daughter’s funeral on Wednesday: “What has my daughter done to them?”


Serkan Turk, 24, fell to the second explosion while helping the victims of the first blast, the Turkish daily Yeni Akit reported.

Hakan Dagdeviren, a friend and head of the Justice and Development Party youth branch said Turk was a hardworking man who was full of life.

“Serkan was a good person,” he said. “From what I’ve learned he had rushed to the site of the first explosion to help the wounded. He died in the second explosion,” Dagdeviren told Yeni Akit.

Asst. Prof. Ilhan Toksoz of Trakya University said Turk “was a young man who loved his country and was full of life.” Turk graduated last year from the university’s physical education and sports college.


Merve Yigit, 22, had been working in catering at the airport. She died in an Istanbul hospital on Wednesday evening, a day after the attack. She had been treated for injuries caused by shrapnel that pierced her abdomen, stomach and head.

A student of public relations, Yigit had been working part-time as a cook for an airport catering firm for nearly three years.


Other victims killed in the attack based on a list by Turkish authorities and information available on them:


Mukhiddinov Samat, Uzbek national

Abdurrahman Abdullah Ibedullah, 18 years old.

Siddik Turgan, had two 2 daughters

Sidik Peçenek, hotel employee in Istanbul

Ethem Uzunsoy, sales and marketing manager

Salar Davudi Kohnehshahri, foreign national (nation not specified)

Taher Misfir Almalki, foreign national (nation not specified)

Nisreen Hashem Shammad, foreign national (nation not specified)

Vafika Ali Bilal, Jordanian national

Mustafa Hüsham Saeed, foreign national (nation not specified)

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