(photo credit: Courtesy,REUTERS)
Relatives of Layan Nasser, an 18-year old from Tira who was one of the 39 people killed in an attack by Islamic State on an Istanbul restaurant and club Saturday night, recalled on Monday a shy young woman who loved fashion and was just starting a career as a dental assistant.
"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," said her cousin Shadi Shbeta, who was among male mourners gathered in a tent next to the family home in this town near Kfar Saba.
The mourners, among them Layan's father, Zaher, an auto mechanic, sat silently on plastic chairs. One man offered up small cups of unsweetened coffee to visitors. Women sat in mourning separately on the second floor of the house.
"We're shocked that innocent people were murdered by Islamic State. She just went to celebrate the New Year and be happy and she was murdered," said Shbeta, an art student.
Another cousin, Hadil Haj-Yihya, a nurse, said it was Layan's first trip abroad and she had taken out a passport for the first time to make it. Her father tried to dissuade her from going, saying it was unsafe, but she insisted, Haj-Yihya said.
In claiming responsibility for the mass shooting, IS described the Reina nightclub as a gathering point for Christians celebrating their "apostate holiday,"Reuters reported. In addition to Layan, nationals of Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Morocco, Libya, India, Canada, a Turkish-Belgian dual citizen and a Franco-Tunisian woman were killed. Twenty five of the dead were foreigners, according to the state-run Anadolu news agency.
The last time Haj-Yihya spoke with Layan the conversation was "about life, fashion, studying. It was girl talk, nothing special. She was excited about the flight. She talked about it a lot. She was just an innocent kid. She doesn't know about politics or terrorism."
Adding to the family's grief is that Layan's corpse was not due to arrive in Israel until Monday night, meaning her funeral will not take place until Tuesday. They had hoped to bury her Monday in accord with Islamic custom that the interment should take place as soon as possible.
Flowers are laid outside Istanbul nightclub
Relatives are hoping that with the return of the corpse, at least it is possible that their minds will be put at ease about how she died. "She is thin and I constantly imagine she was trampled," said Haj-Yihya. "We want it to be a whole body. We want her to be in peace." She said there had been talk of dressing Layan in white "because she is a pure angel."Turkish media quoted a forensic specialist as saying all the fatalities had died from gunfire.
Shbeta recalled that his cousin made the trip to Turkey with her friend the dentist Alaa Abdul-Hai, in whose office she worked, who was not injured, and two other friends, including Rewaa Mansour, who was wounded in the hand and leg and was flown back for treatment at Meir Hospital in Kfar Saba. Layan, who finished high school only last June, had saved up for five months to pay for the trip.
She had hoped to continue her studies, Shbeta said.
"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 6 am and were in this situation till 1 pm, sending messages to people in Istanbul asking if they knew anything,"Shbeta 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.
Another cousin, Sammar Samara, said relatives scrutinized pictures of the carnage at the scene to see if they recognized Layan among the corpses. They did not.
Haj-Yihya said the family learned that Layan was dead when someone sent a picture of her jewelry with a note saying 'if this belongs to her she is definitely dead.' Layan's sister recognized a ring.
Shbeta 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."
He said the funeral would be held in the morning and not at night because "we believe her soul will wake up in the grave so we don't want to do it at night because then she will be afraid. We will do it in the morning."
Shbeta said he plans to make an art project about how Layan was killed by Islamic state. "I want to send a message to the world to stop this terrorism. We don't deserve this."
Haj-Yihya said:"We will all die. But this sudden death hurts so much. She is only eighteen."