Police have arrested a local man of Armenian descent as the culprit on the basis of DNA and other evidence. He followed members of the community home and robbed and attacked them.
Another killing in Istanbul of someone linked to the Armenian community. On Tuesday evening, İlker Şahin, 40, an IT teacher at an Armenian elementary school (although he is not himself Armenian), was found by his co-workers dead in his Kadikoy apartment with his throat cut. The apartment showed evidence of a long struggle and was covered in blood. Şahin had one daughter, but lived alone. The last cell phone message he sent was a group message: “Merry Christmas.” (click here for the Agos report, in Turkish)
This is only the latest in a spate of killings and attacks on the Armenian community, three attacks on Armenian women in the past month alone.
On January 6, a woman of Armenian descent was rescued from 3 individuals who attempted to kidnap her. The suspects have not been caught, but locals said the suspects tried to deceive the victim over a payment issue.
On December 28, Maritsa Küçük, 85, was found stabbed to death in her Samatya apartment where for years she had lived alone. (click here for the report in Agos, in Turkish). She was found naked and her son initially said he thought a cross had been carved onto her body, although he later said it might have been dried blood. Authorities have released no information about the case and the media quickly lost interest — just another old woman robbed and killed in her home.
Again in Samatya, earlier in December another woman, 87, of Armenian descent was found battered in her Samatya apartment. As she entered her apartment, some men pressed in behind her, punched her and then strangled her. They robbed her of her valuables. She was in intensive care for two weeks and lost vision in one eye. (click here)
In October 2011, an Armenian woman got into a taxi in Zincirlikuyu, Istanbul. When the driver learned she was Armenian he insulted and beat her. The woman pressed charges against the cab driver but, despite evidence, in the intervening 15 months he has not been arrested.
Are these on anyone’s front burner as hate crimes? The incidents have been reported in the Turkish press piecemeal, so I wasn’t sure if these were random crimes. But five attacks and four targeted killings in a row is not random crime. According to Armenian Turkish press reports, the victims are intimidated and fear that their families or communities will suffer further if they speak out.
The whole world should be watching to see whether the Istanbul police (and then the judiciary) have any backbone against nationalist sentiment and manage to track down what appears to be a serial killer or at least serial killings based on century-old categories of hatred, the spite of narrow-minded bigots, and tolerance of violence (whether against women or Christians) by institutions of society.
In response to commenters that wonder whether these could be simply victims of theft, that is certainly possible, although as I said above the sequence of murders seems not to be random. I do, however, personally know of several cases where major property theft has occurred, not just with non-Muslims, although they are more vulnerable. Old people are threatened with violence (or violence against their families) if they do not sign over rights to their properties. The criminals are Turkish mafia.
In one case, the Muslim Turkish victim’s family tried to regain the property (a valuable inherited property overlooking the Bosphorus) by going to the police, but were told by the police that there was nothing they could do against mafia-related crime. They suggested that the family hire a rival mafia group to try to force the group that had their property to give it up. The family didn’t do that because they were afraid and has basically lost the property; they have no recourse whatsoever. On paper, the transaction with their signature appears legal. I see almost no news in Turkey about mafia crimes, although anecdotally it appears to be widespread. Another set of people free to act with impunity.