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A Sacred Right To Celebrate? 7 Questions After Istanbul New Year’s Attack

Protestors took to the streets of Istanbul to rally against the referendum results on April 17.
Mourners after the attack at Istanbul's Reina nightclub.
Ahmet Hakan

ISTANBUL — The New Year's Eve terrorist attack at a popular nightclub in an upscale neighborhood of Istanbul has left 39 dead and dozens wounded. As Turkish authorities continue their search for the suspect, the terror group ISIS claimed responsibility Monday for the attack at the Reina nightclub, which some have noted came after loud public debates about the celebration of Western secular holidays. Here are seven questions and answers to better understand what happened, as well as the broader context in Turkey, and beyond.

1. What is the symbolic meaning of the nightclub Reina?

Reina may be out of fashion for the locals of Istanbul, but the club is quite well-known outside of Turkey, which is what would make it a target with immediate recognition and importance.

2. What was the ultimate goal of the Reina massacre?

Even if there may be dozens of explanations for what happened, the most basic objective is to provoke hostility among the people of Turkey, by dividing them into camps of those who celebrate the (Western) New Year and those who do not. In other words, no matter who is behind it, this was a way to simply plant the seeds of hate.

3. With all the warnings we've had, how could this massacre have happened?

After all the alarms and so much law enforcement and intelligence devoted to averting such attacks, there was exactly one single police officer outside of Reina.

4. Are we supposed to not discuss the failure of security this time around?

I guess we will have to skip it again: so many of us are just too busy banning discussion of another security failure to have time enough to figure out how not to cause the next security failure.

5. What if these Western holidays make you want to punch Santa Claus or put a gun to his head?

You may not want to celebrate the New Year. You even may have criticism towards those who do. But it is hate crime territory after you start to express yourself with guns and violence.

6. What can we learn from the message from the head of the Turkish Office of Religious Affairs?

The statement from Office of Religious Affairs President Mehmet Gormez after the massacre is very important. He said: "There is no difference between an inhuman attack on an entertainment venue or a marketplace or a sacred temple." If only he would have said this before the New Year celebration, and tell his imams at mosques to pass on the message stop with the language of hatred and violence towards those who celebrate the New Year.

7. Will those who praise terrorism on social media be prosecuted?

Let us see what will happen to those who say things like "it is a good thing that the infidels are dead" in this era of detaining everybody because they said this or that on the social media.

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In Northern Kenya, Where Climate Change Is Measured In Starving Children

The worst drought in 40 years, which has deepened from the effects of climate change, is hitting the young the hardest around the Horn of Africa. A close-up look at the victims, and attempts to save lives and limit lasting effects on an already fragile region in Kenya.

Photo of five mothers holding their malnourished children

At feeding time, nurses and aides encourage mothers to socialize their children and stimulate them to eat.

Georgina Gustin

KAKUMA — The words "Stabilization Ward" are painted in uneven black letters above the entrance, but everyone in this massive refugee camp in Kakuma, Kenya, calls it ya maziwa: The place of milk.

Rescue workers and doctors, mothers and fathers, have carried hundreds of starving children through the doors of this one-room hospital wing, which is sometimes so crowded that babies and toddlers have to share beds. A pediatric unit is only a few steps away, but malnourished children don’t go there. They need special care, and even that doesn’t always save them.

In an office of the International Rescue Committee nearby, Vincent Opinya sits behind a desk with figures on dry-erase boards and a map of the camp on the walls around him. “We’ve lost 45 children this year due to malnutrition,” he says, juggling emergencies, phone calls, and texts. “We’re seeing a significant increase in malnutrition cases as a result of the drought — the worst we’ve faced in 40 years.”

From January to June, the ward experienced an 800 percent rise in admissions of children under 5 who needed treatment for malnourishment — a surge that aid groups blame mostly on a climate change-fueled drought that has turned the region into a parched barren.

Opinya, the nutrition manager for the IRC here, has had to rattle off these statistics many times, but the reality of the numbers is starting to crack his professional armor. “It’s a very sad situation,” he says, wearily. And he believes it will only get worse. A third year of drought is likely on the way.

More children may die. But millions will survive malnutrition and hunger only to live through a compromised future, researchers say. The longer-term health effects of this drought — weakened immune systems, developmental problems — will persist for a generation or more, with consequences that will cascade into communities and societies for decades.

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