The co-chairs of Turkey’s pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Equality and Democracy Party (DEM Party) have expressed solidarity with the priest of Istanbul’s Santa Maria, an Italian Catholic church, after an Islamic State (ISIS)-claimed attack killed one and injured multiple members of the Sunday mass congregation.
DEM Party co-chairs Tülay Hatimoğulları and Tuncer Bakırhan condemned the violence in a phone call with the priest, Father Anton Bulai. The co-chairs extended condolences to the Catholic community, emphasising a commitment to diversity and coexistence.
Furthermore, in a speech at the party’s parliamentary group on Tuesday, Hatimoğulları said she hoped that the attack would not be followed by others, noting the tendency for such incidents to occur around election periods or when other major political agendas emerge in Turkey. She criticised the current government for facilitating an environment in which ISIS was able take root and operate.
Following the shooting, Turkish police detained 51 individuals, including the main suspects, two foreign nationals from Tajikistan and Russia, understood to be ISIS members.
Şükrü Genç, the district mayor, provided insight into how the incident unfolded. “The priest mentioned that it was during the second gunshot that he lifted his head. By the first gunshot, everyone had already thrown themselves to the ground. After the second shot, the gun jammed, and then the assailants left. It’s uncertain what would have continued, whether the attack would have persisted,” Genç said, in an interview with daily Birgün.
Genç noted that Istanbul’s Polish Consul General, Witold Lesniak, and family were in attendance at the mass. “They were at the front and were unharmed, but their children and everyone at the mass were severely affected.”
The scale of the planned a shootout remains unknown. “There were 35-40 people in the church during the mass. After the second gunshot, the priest was protected. The attackers left casually without a shooting spree; it was a singular shot. It’s unclear if they intended to shoot more people,” the mayor said.