Turkish Canadians left 'scared and shaking' after Istanbul's nightclub shooting

Huseyin Nurgel never thought he would start of 2017 by teaching his 10-year-old daughter about terrorist attacks.

Turks from Toronto call the Istanbul nightclub shooting a 'bad start' to 2017

Lara Nurgel, 10, was scared and started asking her father Huseyin Nurgel about terrorism after seeing footage of Sunday's Istanbul nightclub shooting on TV while visiting family in Turkey. (Huseyin Nurgel)

Huseyin Nurgel started off 2017 by teaching his 10-year-old daughter about terrorist attacks.

"Right now, she's so scared," he said. "She wants to stay at home."

Nurgel lives in Toronto, but he and his family flew to Adana, Turkey to spend the holidays with family.

Their New Year's Eve celebration took a somber turn when they flipped on the news and learned at least 39 people were killed and another 69 were wounded after a gunman opened fire in an Istanbul nightclub just hours before.

But while Istanbul is more than 900 km away from Adana, for Nurgel, the violence still hit close to home.

"We are shaking right now," he said. "We're still shocked and sad, and are mourning for the people who died."

The Nurgels rang in the New Year in Adana, Turkey hours before they learned at least 39 people were killed in an Istanbul nightclub shooting. (Huseyin Nurgel)

His daughter, Lara, was particularly shaken after seeing images from the shooting. Nurgel said she was unaware of the spate of terrorist attacks in Turkey carried out by ISIS or Kurdish rebels in the last two years and he cautiously told her about them. Learning about the violence left her "afraid and sad," he said.

ISIS has claimed responsibility for the nightclub shooting.

Hoping for a better year 

"We were hoping 2017 would be a better year than 2016," he said. "It's a bad start."

As president of the Canadian Turkish Media Association, Nurgel puts together a 30-minute television show for the Turkish community in Toronto each week. He said he's not looking forward to adding this shooting to next week's lineup.

Former president of the Federation of Canadian Turkish Associations Demir Delen is happy to be safe in Toronto, and has been a shoulder to family and friends in Istanbul unnerved by the incident.

His sister in Ankara told him she was "afraid to go out anymore."  

Former president of the Canadian Turkish Associations Demir Delen said the nightclub shooting in Istanbul has evoked fear in his family and friends who live there. (Laura DaSilva/CBC)

Like Nurgel, he was hoping the New Year would mean a clean slate for Turkey.

"Everyone was so hopeful and almost within the first hour this happens," he said. "People suddenly get really disappointed and psychologically in shock."

He said the country's conflicts with Syria and the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) are making Turkey the target of violence too often.

"The western world hears more about events happening in major cities like Ankara and Istanbul, but almost daily there are terrorism acts going on in the eastern provinces."

Toronto restaurant owner Mehmet Adilak said the shooting in Istanbul will negatively change the way people view Muslims. (Laura DaSilva/CBC)

Mehmet Adilak, who owns two Turkish restaurants in Toronto's east end, said violent attacks like Sunday's cause outsiders to lump Turkish people together with violent groups such as ISIS.

"Because 99 per cent of the population is Muslim, they think we're the same as those people killing for jihad," he said. "We're totally different than those people."

He condemns the attack and said he can't imagine how a human being could do such "unspeakable" things.

"It's making me sick to my stomach."