At least 41 people are dead and over 200 injured after three assailants targeted Turkey's Ataturk airport in Istanbul on Tuesday, using a combination of guns and explosive devices. While no one has come forward yet to claim responsibility for the massacre, British experts told the BBC that early indications pointed to Islamic State as having conducted what they term "a marauding terrorist firearms attack" like that first seen in Mumbai in 2008.
Across social media, many worried that this latest attack was being ignored, or at least minimized by American news outlets and audiences. In an impassioned Facebook post, Ahmed Rehab, director of the Chicago branch of Council on American-Islamic Relations, dismissed the more conspiratorial sentiment behind those concerns, but explained that:
[A] natural bias - of selective vision, selective perception, selective data, and selective memory - works to do a number on people, only to confirm preconceived narratives and gloss over any and all facts/data that punctures massive holes in said narratives. The consequence for us is very real: mad levels of Islamophobia and widespread demonization.
In other words: while there may not be overt censoring of reports on this latest attack, our various biases and preconceptions serve to cloud any number of truths about what Istanbul has experienced this week.
Among those truths is this: Tuesday's attack was only the latest in a series of terrorist acts—some perpetrated by ISIS, others not—that have killed nearly one hundred innocent people across the country in just the past six months. They are attacks which, whether by virtue of our own implicit biases, selective news consumption, or sheer bandwidth exhaustion, are likely unknown to many in the United States—a fact that makes the recent carnage at Ataturk Airport all the more tragic.
Here are the major terrorist attacks Turkey has already been subjected to in 2016 alone:
A suicide bomber approached a group of people standing in Istanbul's Sultanahmet Square—a popular tourist destination, and site of the ancient Egyptian monument the Obelisk of Theodosius—detonating himself and killing thirteen others. Nearly all those killed were German tourists. Authorities later identified the attacker as an ISIS follower believed to have crossed into Turkey from Syria.
Just over one month later, on February 17th, a suicide car bombing killed 29 in Turkey's capital city of Ankara. The attack targeted buses carrying both military personnel and civilians as they sat at a traffic intersection. Responsibility for the bombing was claimed by the Kurdistan Freedom Hawks (known as TAK), a militant separatist group listed as a terrorist organization by the United States in 2008.
On March 13th, Ankara was hit once again by a massive bombing in the city's main thoroughfare. Using an explosives-laden car, terrorists targeted buses at a transportation hub in Ankara's Kizilay Square. 37 people were left dead from the attack, and over 120 more were injured. Again, TAK claimed responsibility for the bombing, and explained it had been targeting military personnel, expressing regret for any civilians killed.
Six days later in Istanbul, four people were killed in a suicide bombing that left dozens more injured. The March 19th attack took place in a busy shopping district, and while early reports seemed to indicate Kurdish militants were responsible for the attack, Turkish authorities later described the suspected bomber as having links with ISIS.
After several months of calm, Istanbul was once again the site of horrific violence when, on June 7th, a car bomb targeting a police vehicle killed 11 people, four of them civilians. Once again, TAK militants claimed responsibility for the attack, threatening Turkey as "no longer safe" for tourists.
Which brings us to now.
The attack on Ataturk Airport did not occur in a vacuum. It is not an idyllic calm shattered by a first instance of despicable horror. Instead, the grief felt in Turkey this week is something more: an attack endured by people who have spent the past six months and beyond watching their country reel from too much violence and terror already.