BEIRUT // Funerals were held across the Middle East on Tuesday for victims of the Istanbul nightclub shooting, many of them young partygoers whose lives were cut tragically short.
Thirty-nine people were killed in the attack claimed by ISIL, most of them foreigners and many of them nationals of Arab countries.
From Lebanon, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Iraq, Tunisia, Morocco and Libya, the victims had travelled to Istanbul to spend New Year’s Eve at the exclusive Reina club on the shores of the Bosphorus. But they returned home in coffins.
Lebanon’s prime minister Saad Hariri was at Beirut airport for the arrival of the Lebanese victims, including three dead: Rita Shami, 26, a student, Elias Wardini, also 26, a personal trainer, and Haykal Musallem, 36, a physical fitness trainer with the Tadamon Zouk basketball team. His wife survived the attack.
“Terrorism has no religion, it targets us all, it targets people who love life,” Mr Hariri said.
Wardini’s body was carried through the streets of Ashrafiyeh, the largely Christian district of Beirut, to the sounds of traditional darbuka drums and trumpets. As is traditional in Lebanon when a young, unmarried person dies, the funeral ceremony also included wedding accoutrements, with the church decorated in white flowers.
His two older sisters collapsed several times during the ceremony, one them crying, “Get up! Why don’t you answer me?”
Arab Israeli Layan Nasser was only 18 and on her first trip away from her family. On Tuesday in her small predominantly Muslim hometown of Tira north of Tel Aviv, shops and restaurants closed as several thousand people gathered to pay their respects before her coffin was taken to a mosque prior to burial.
“She was kind, loveable and clever,” said her uncle Rani. “It’s so hard to understand. A few days ago we could hold her and now she is gone.”
Local imam Abdul Rahman Kashoa spoke of the distortion of Islam. “There can never be a justification for this,” he said.
Funerals were also held on Tuesday for Tunisian Mohamed Azzabi and his French-Tunisian wife, Senda Nakaa. Their five-month-old daughter Chirine, is now an orphan but the French ambassador to Tunisia, Olivier Poivre d’Arvor, said: “France will treat her as a ward of the nation.”
The Saudi Gazette newspaper on Tuesday reported that among the victims were Saudi twins Mohammed and Ahmed Saud Al Fadl, 24, who died together in the attack. They had just graduated from university. The newspaper identified another of the Saudi victims as 24-year-old Lubna Ghaznawi, who was at the club with two girlfriends.
Funerals were also held in Jordan on Tuesday for Nawras Assaf and Mohammad Al Sarraf, as members of the Jordanian parliament held a moment of silence for the victims.
* Agence France Presse