One Morning at the Ankara Central Station

Translated from Turkish by Translators for Justice



Harun Balcıoğlu

“…Never forget, never

 Ever forgive

Love your enemy not, don’t ever hush

Wait for the fight of all fights, wait

Do you understand, my heart?” (Gülten Akın)

The old woman lying on the ground was covered with a banner from the peace rally. She seemed to be dead. I saw her white-scarfed head when I lifted the banner. She looked to be 65-70 years old. The swelling that extended from her right eyebrow to her eyelid must have been due to the impact of the fall. Blood drops from nearby shattered bodies speckled her face…

When I checked her pulse on her neck I could not feel it; I thought her heart had stopped beating. Then I searched for signs of life. Her pupils were not dilated yet and my hopes rose. I turned her on her left side, rested her head slightly back. I was hoping to ensure the passage of air in her throat. As she lay on her side, I cleaned the bloody liquid out her mouth with my fingers. I was startled, I thought I could be mistaken, I wasn’t certain, I thought it could have to do with the pressure I applied while turning her on her side. Then I was certain: yes, although infrequent and shallow, she was breathing. She was alive.

A few people scurrying about, propelled in a helter-skelter manner by the shock of the blast, noticed my efforts and asked, “is she alive?” My patient’s life was hanging by a thread.  We then were surrounded by people who had just arrived at the scene. They called out for ambulance in every direction. Somehow we reached an ambulance and were able to send the old woman on the threshold of death to a hospital.

When I heard the explosion I was about 50-60 meters away. Explosion… then another one moments later… Small particles floating in the air, a bit of a dust cloud perhaps. First, I tried to calm down those running away in panic. I headed to the explosion site which was full of movement.

The closer I got to ground zero, the more it smelled like death. I did not grasp it at first, then I realized it was the smell of human flesh, sometimes burnt to a charcoal. Those who have been at massacres, at war, or those who have been in Diyarbakır or Suruç when the bombs exploded there recognize this smell wafting up from the torn and burnt people. This is what we learned that day in front of the Ankara train station.

The arena filled with a deathly smell, screams, cries for help, chants of slogans, silent tears, angry shouts, elegies, aimless wanderings, efforts to help the wounded, to resuscitate the dead…

It would still be quite a while before the ambulances arrived and as we struggled to help the wounded, the burned. The suffocating stench of pepper gas shot by the police mixed with the smell of death as soon as they arrived

We the living knew the familiar stench of the pepper gas, but we will never know if some of our dead gulped down that stench as their last breath.

The ground was littered with human tissue, pieces of human flesh… blood…  People covering the broken bodies with flags and banners…


“…if I sat and cried I said,

 if I cried at the green and the red and everybody else…”

After I sent the ambulance with the white head-scarfed old woman on the brink of death, I started searching for signs of life among the bodies lying in heaps, scattered around, my colleagues, comrades, perhaps friends, lovers, the future we never had under flags and banners.

It was a hopeless effort. One by one I checked my brethren whose heads and bodies were shattered. As I checked their pulses and their pupils for a sign of life, I quietly stroked them and said goodbye.

Women, men, young women, young men…

Young people cried quietly while they held the hands of their friends shrouded with banners one last time.

They had come to say “Stop War, Peace Right Now”, they had come to a “Rally for Labor, Peace and Democracy.” Now they lay together, dead on the ground, crimson with blood/their blood…

I’ve seen many deaths and much pain in my nearly thirty years as a doctor. I saw a lot of bodies that were in pieces. And yet, what could be painful, heavy and terrible a way to meet as at this bloody meeting…

History is full of examples of how evil and murderous humans can be. Massacres and murders are also the lot of humans who think they are humans.

We are full of anger. Our burden is very heavy and difficult to bear. Our only consolation, the only solution is to preserve and nourish our hopes for peace, for better days for workers and to continue working and fighting to realize them.

A fight against the destructive evil in man is our conviction.

What we need, against the visible/invisible culprits of this inhuman attack and massacre is more solidarity in this “dark tunnel”.

They will not succeed.

We shall overcome, labor will overcome, peace will overcome! (HB/HK)

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