Lisa Calan’s legs are buried next to her father’s grave, the result of an Islamic State bombing at a political rally two years ago, one of the extremist group’s early attacks in Turkey.
“So I guess I can say I am already partly in the grave,” the 29-year-old film professional told VOA.
During the past four years, IS has killed almost 400 people and wounded more than 1,000 in Turkey, starting with 51 dead in two car bombs on May 11, 2013, according to a VOA tally from news reports of IS-related terror.
IS either claimed responsibility or was named by authorities as being behind the attacks.
A film script writer, Calan has managed to stay upbeat and doesn’t suffer from the financial problems of other victims of IS attacks, thanks to a fund-raising campaign on her behalf in Turkey and Germany. But she continues to deal with the aftermath of the bombing of a pro-Kurdish HDP party rally in Diyarbakir that killed four people and wounded many others.
“I very often have horrible nightmares,” she said. “I hear sounds of explosions. I smell gunpowder all over my body. I hear people screaming. I see body parts. I see blood. It is so terrifying.
“But I am still able to hope and smile,” she added. “Most of all I want to see peace realized in Turkey. My hope for peace keeps me alive. I will never give up asking and working for peace.”
Peace has become hard to find in Turkey, which has been pummeled by attacks from Kurdish separatists long before IS emergence took the country by surprise in 2013.
Since a cease-fire broke down in July 2015 between the government and the outlawed PKK — the Kurdistan Workers Party — at least 2,844 people have been killed in PKK-related violence, including 395 civilians, according to figures compiled by the International Crisis Group.
Turks are also dealing with the effects of a massive government crackdown on dissidents following a coup attempt last year and the impact of the long-running civil war in neighboring Syria which spawned an escalating IS movement inside Turkey.
Turkey’s government has come under blistering internal criticism for allowing IS militants from other countries to gain passage into neighboring Syria and Iraq and letting IS sympathizers establish havens in the country’s southeast region.
As IS escalated terror in Turkey, each attack has left lives shattered.
“I’ve had seven operations so far,” said Calan. “I have to have one more pretty soon. This one is a little risky. I am still thinking about it.”
Her family also has been devastated. Her mother and younger brother have had trouble coping. And an older brother earlier lost both legs to an illness.
“So I am the second child of in the family with no legs now,” Calan said. “Not easy at all … My close friends keep treating me as they did before. I know how they feel. Because of my condition we have to be more careful where we go and meet. I used to love walking in Diyarbakir. I walked almost everywhere. That somehow changes their lives too.”
Calan credits the challenges of growing up in a Kurdish family with helping her overcome tragedy.
“All Kurdish children are born into a political world,” Calan said. “This keeps people able to go on with their daily lives. This gives us strength. That is how I am, too. I don’t feel like a person with no legs.”
Calan hopes to return to her budding career in film, where she served as an art director, script writer and actress. She already has picked out her next project, a documentary about three IS bombings in Turkey, including Diyarbakir.
“I want to talk to a lot of people who were at these places like I was, those who got wounded and those who lost loved ones, their personal problems that came after these bombings,” Calan said. “Many people now have serious financial problems. They can’t afford their treatments.”
Government officials say Turkey has intensified its crackdown on IS-associated militants since a New Year’s Eve attack on Istanbul’s Reina nightclub claimed by IS.
But for Calan, who is pursuing compensation for her injuries, the government shares some responsibility for the IS-bombing that took away her legs.
“Government authorities turned a blind eye to this whole thing,” she said. “Everybody was already talking about a probable IS bombing attack during the HDP rally in Diyarbakir. I blame some politicians, too. Some of the statements they have made were encouraging to IS militants.”