Turkey : Killing fields

Discussion in 'West Asia & Africa' started by Singh, Aug 28, 2012.

  1. Singh

    Singh Phat Cat Administrator

    Feb 23, 2009
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    It was Yaşar Büyükanıt, one of the top generals whose word once upon a time weighed more than any other’s here. When he was serving as the Chief of General Staff some five years ago, “Mothers of Saturday” were also busy trying to have their desperate voices heard in the midst of the Pera District of Istanbul, of their “lost” loved ones; you know those who went “missing” in the darkness of the 1990’s.
    So, when a bureaucrat-turned-politician, Mehmet Ağar, spoke of the pain in the southeastern provinces, asked to stop “the crying of the mothers,” the four-star general responded to him harshly. “Well, he (Ağar) probably means those Saturday’s mothers, doesn’t he?” Büyükanıt told the press, in a despicably arrogant and cynical manner. It was months before the big events, such as Dink’s murder and the infamous e-memo against the government.

    Times are changing. Some brave prosecutors continue to probe the crimes of 20 or so years ago, as the number of skulls and skeletons dug up in Diyarbakır since Jan. 11 has reached 25.

    Truth is like that. It chases and haunts; it has that habit of never going away for good. Now, as Büyükanıt is anxiously awaiting the results of various investigations encircling the top brass of this and that allegation on abuse of power, the news about the skulls comes as a painful relief for many of those mothers of Saturday who for two decades had to suffer humiliation and harassment by the authorities and the systematic indifference of the so-called “mainstream media.”

    What has been uncovered since Jan. 11 in areas that belonged to the much-feared JITEM facilities are the ghosts of the past. The tide is turning, and as more discoveries are made, newspapers like Zaman and Radikal report extensive, heart-wrenching accounts of the members of Kurdish families who still live with the hope of reuniting with their sons and daughters.

    Other segments of the press are less enthusiastic, but progress is noted. Day after day, we experience a country, a society that in a slow-motion manner wakes up from a world of lies, of cover ups. The notorious JITEM -- a derivative of the Turkish “Gladio” structures, adopted to conduct a massive dirty war against the [Kurdistan Workers’ Party] PKK-led Kurdish insurgency in the 1990s, under the protection of the rules of the Emergency Rule -- is still a ghost from the past, which has to be legally and administratively confronted. Despite efforts in the late ‘90s -- by ex-Prime Minister Mesut Yılmaz -- to expose its crimes, the generals until recently in sheer arrogance denied that JITEM even existed. “They were so fearless that they did not even bother to bury the victims’ remains far away -- just buried them in their courtyard,” Coşkun Üsterci from Human Rights Foundation (IHV) told the members of the Human Rights’ Commission in Parliament the other day.

    He told them he believed the number of “missing” may not be as high as 17,000-18,000 (as claimed by the BDP [Peace and Democracy Party]) but around 6,000-7,000. Certainly, the numeric differences do not matter. There are thousands of families who are traumatized by the fact that they do not know the fate of their relatives, and they want to bury them properly. Üsterci also presented a list of the “missings” in a chronological manner. The “peak” in summary executions and extrajudicial killings, he explained, was reached in 1990-94 at a time when the PKK escalated its warfare. The measures were apparently sanctioned at the highest level -- National Security Council (MGK) and the government -- under Süleyman Demirel and Tansu Çiller, who consequently were prime ministers. The number of those killed was 362 in 1992, 467 in 1993 and 423 in 1994. The skulls discovered in Diyarbakır are only the beginning, according to human rights activists. There are many eyewitnesses and “confessors” who will point out other spots. But, they also expect concrete and bold steps for taking everybody responsible to court. Everybody.

    Unveiling the past, near or distant, is a huge task for the government, media and the citizens. Skulls are buried in the earth, and there is an immense number of skeletons in Ankara’s political cupboards. It is now apparent to many people here that the painful, often bloody abuse of power under military tutelage was a work of continuity: Digging for the truth in the dark corners of the last decade leads to the ones hidden in the 1990s, which points to the 1980s and so on.

    All this is happening as the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) government faces increasing pressure from critiques of slowing down, of pulling the brakes. Everything is piled up, as it were, and compressed -- surrounded by mass expectations of justice, closure and “never-again.” “I know, some of you become impatient,” said Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan some days ago. “There are so many ill-deeds of the past. I wish we had a magic wand so that all of them were sent to the garbage bin of history, but we do not.” He also promised that neither the Uludere incident nor the Dink case will be allowed to be “lost in the corridors” of Ankara. If he is sincere -- and for his own political task’s sake, he must be -- the journey will have to go on; but, not half-heartedly. Winning the future of Turkey is to deal properly with its past.

    Killing fields
  3. Cadian

    Cadian Regular Member

    May 5, 2014
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    Russia, Ryazan
    Tears and destruction amid Turkey PKK crackdown
    By Mark LowenBBC Turkey correspondent

    27 January 2016

    The silence is pierced by volleys of gunfire and military vehicles rushing past. There's a loud explosion, sending acrid smoke billowing into the air. Snipers perched on a hotel rooftop open fire - the crack of their rifle shot is terrifyingly close.

    This is Turkey: a Nato member and European Union candidate. And swathes of its south east are sliding into chaos.

    The heart of the battle is Diyarbakir, where the Sur neighbourhood has been under curfew for weeks, as Turkish police and military flush out rebel fighters from the PKK - the Kurdistan Workers' Party. A two-year ceasefire broke down last July, plunging swathes of south-eastern Turkey back into armed conflict.

    The army says about 500 militants have been killed since December, when curfews were imposed in seven cities. Human rights activists insist more than 100 of them were civilians.

    For days, a group of mothers have gathered in the city centre, appealing for their children's bodies to be returned. They remain stuck in the curfew-hit area, the mothers unable to bury their dead.

    Mothers in Diyarbakir are appealing for their children's bodies to be returned
    Fahriye Cukur grips a framed photograph of her daughter, Rozerin. She's pictured in the school uniform she wore on 8 January, when she ventured into Sur during a partial lifting of the curfew and was shot by snipers.

    Fahriye tried to reach her by phone but the lines were down. She learned of her daughter's death through the media.

    "The thing I'll miss most is her calling me mama," she says, staring vacantly into the distance. "She was 16 and went to Sur to study with a friend. She liked history, she liked art. She was a poet."

    Why are Turkish clashes with PKK escalating?

    Turkey v Islamic State group v the Kurds

    At her home, Fahriye shows me more photographs of Rozerin - and the emotion is too much to bear.

    "I dreamt my daughter would go to university and I would pack her luggage. They've shattered my dreams," she says, barely able to speak through sobs.

    "They call us 'terrorists' and kill us. Who will hear my cries? Is it [President] Erdogan? Why did he do this to me?"

    Fahriye Cukur's daughter was killed by snipers in the Sur district of Diyarbakir
    The authorities insist only PKK militants are targeted, vowing to push on with the operations until, in the president's words, the fighters are "annihilated".

    Since July, more than 200 Turkish soldiers and policemen have been killed in attacks by the PKK, which is listed as a terrorist organisation by Turkey, the EU and US.

    But the government has faced criticism that it's too focused on the fight against the PKK, and should instead deploy more resources against so-called Islamic State (IS). Air strikes on the Kurdish militants have far exceeded those against IS, with Ankara only recently stepping up its role in the US-led coalition.

    A suicide bomb blamed on IS militants killed 10 tourists in Istanbul earlier this month - proof, say critics, that the government has allowed IS to spread while narrowly pursuing the PKK.

    But the allegations go further; that President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has reignited the PKK battle in order to crush support for the pro-Kurdish party in parliament, the HDP, which is frequently labelled "terrorist supporters" by his government and a pliant Turkish press.

    There is even the suspicion he will push for another election in a few months, to gain enough MPs to change the constitution and boost his powers. For that, he would need to force the HDP out of parliament.

    Ankara fiercely denies the accusations, insisting it was the PKK that resumed the conflict.

    "The terrorist group is opening fire on our security forces - that is why the clashes have broken out," says Huseyin Aksoy, the governor of Diyarbakir.

    "If people dug trenches, erected barricades and declared 'self-rule' in Britain or any European country, the response would be the same."

    He insists only one civilian has died in Diyarbakir during the operation - and an investigation is under way to determine from which side the bullet came.

    Diyarbakir Governor Huseyin Aksoy says Turkey's tough stance is justified
    "We are protecting our citizens - it was our responsibility to intervene," he adds.

    The Turkish authorities did not allow us into the Sur neighbourhood of Diyarbakir to see the impact of the operation. So we drove three hours to the town of Silopi, where the curfew has been partially lifted. Frequent military and police checkpoints dot the road.

    Inside Silopi, it's as though an earthquake has hit. Houses are completely destroyed, walls either collapsed or ripped apart by tank shells. Buildings are riddled with bullet holes.

    Some houses in the town of Silopi have been destroyed by the fighting
    Signs of the violence are everywhere
    Turkey thought armed conflict was over when the 2013 ceasefire halted the fighting with the PKK that had killed 40,000 people over three decades. But it's back.

    Fadile Seflek shows me her house - or what is left of it. Rubble is strewn everywhere, the windows are shattered, every room is burnt out.

    "We fled because of the fighting, and when we came back I just cried, inside and out," she says.

    Fadile Seflek's home in Silopi has been destroyed
    Angry mourners at Kurdish funerals vow defiance
    Kurdish MP Ziya Pir: Elation over the strong pro-HDP vote did not last long
    Every few days more bodies are retrieved from curfew-hit areas. The funerals are attended by hundreds. Chants of "martyrs never die" and "the murderous state will pay" ring out.

    Attending one funeral is an MP for the HDP party, Ziya Pir.

    We met in Diyarbakir last June, just before the election that saw the pro-Kurdish party get into parliament for the first time. There was an atmosphere of elation, that the Kurdish minority would finally achieve national representation.

    The party polled 13%, higher than expected. It's widely believed that President Erdogan scuppered coalition talks to force a repeat election in November, in which the HDP vote was pushed down due to the conflict and the party he founded regained its majority.

    "Back in June you asked me if a war was possible between the Turkish state and the PKK," Ziya says.

    "I said never again, but now we have that war. We have mothers crying on both sides and a government in Ankara that doesn't listen to them. My message to both sides is to pull back. Nobody wants this war."

    But there is no sign of compromise by either side. Once the fighting does finally end, militants may have been killed but the hatred will have deepened here. Months of conflict will certainly act as a PKK recruitment tool for another generation.

    Reconciliation and solving the age-old "Kurdish problem" here seems more distant than ever.


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