Family’s tears for Layan, ‘just a shy, innocent child’ murdered in Istanbul

Layan Nasser, who loved fashion and was starting a career as a dental assistant, insisted on making the trip from her home in the Arab town of Tira, Israel, to celebrate New Year despite her father's concerns

Layan Nasser, 18, who was killed in Istanbul attack on her first trip abroad.  (Twitter)
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Tira // The father of an 18-year old girl killed in the New Year attack on an Istanbul nightclub tried to persuade his daughter not to go to Turkey because he thought it was not safe.

But Layan Nasser, a shy young woman who loved fashion and was just starting a career as a dental assistant, insisted on making the trip for the weekend from her home in the Arab town of Tira in central Israel, her relatives told The National on Monday.

“She really wanted this trip, it was her first trip abroad and she was so excited to travel,” said her cousin, Hadil Haj-Yihya.

As men sat silently in a nearby mourners circle at the Nasser family home, some of them sipping unsweetened coffee, Hadil said Layan made the trip with her colleague, the dentist Alaa Abdul-Hai in whose clinic she worked, and two other friends. Alaa was not injured but one of the group, Rewaa Mansour, was wounded in the hand and leg when the gunman walked into the popular Reina nightclub in the early hours of New Year’s Day and killed 39 people.

ISIL said one of its militants carried out the attack which mostly killed foreigners, many from the region, who had travelled to Istanbul to celebrate New Year.

Layan, who finished high school only last June, had saved up for five months to pay for the trip.

Hadil said the last time she spoke with her cousin they discussed “life, fashion, studying”. Layan talked a lot about the upcoming trip, Hadil said. “She is just an innocent kid. She doesn’t know about politics and terrorism. She loved fashion and make-up. She just wanted to live life. She was just a child.

“Her mum wanted her to get married and have kids,” she added. “She was so close to her grandmother. She would visit her every night.

“Now her mother is crying, saying ‘I’m giving her to the grave, not to her husband.’”

Hadil said she was taking comfort in the words of an elderly family friend who said that Layan died as a martyr and was now a “bride in heaven”.

“She will be in a better place in heaven, in God’s hands. He will be merciful,” Hadil said.

Another cousin, Shadi Shbeta, said: “She doesn’t need this world. It’s a world full of terror and bad things.”

Asked to describe his cousin, Shadi said: “She is very shy and quiet. She won’t talk to you because she’s shy. She’s waiting for you to talk to her.

“She just went to celebrate the New Year and be happy and she was murdered,” said Shadi, an art student.

He was outraged that the person who killed Layan did so in the name of Islam. “People should know the real Islam is a religion of love and peace. They call themselves Muslim but they are not. Islam does not ask you to kill people. Islam teaches to love other religions.”

Shams, a 12-year-old cousin, interjected: “The people who did this do not know God.”

Adding to the family’s grief is that Layan’s body was not due to arrive in Israel until Monday night, meaning her funeral cannot take place until Tuesday. They had hoped to bury her on Monday in accord with Islamic custom that the interment should take place as soon as possible.

“They didn’t find her body until morning. We didn’t know if she was murdered or not. We just hoped she was alive. We were just waiting. We knew she was missing at 6am and were in this situation till 1pm, sending messages to people in Istanbul asking if they knew anything,” Shadi said.

“We thought she’s in the police station or ran away in panic. We didn’t think she was killed because you can’t think that about Layan. She’s innocent,” he added.

Hadil said the family learned that Layan was dead when someone sent a picture of her jewellery with a note saying “if this belongs to her she is definitely dead”. Layan’s sister recognised a ring.

Shadi said Layan’s death “is like a movie. An innocent girl wants to be happy and see something good and the good turns out to be the baddest thing in the world.”