Sezai Temelli, an MP for the pro-Kurdish Green Left Party, submitted a petition to the Parliamentary Human Rights Investigation Committee on Monday, urging an inquiry into the mistreatment and denial of burial rights for corpses. The petition emphasises the case of Yılmaz Uzun, a Kurdish fighter whose remains were delivered to his family in a box on 1 September, three years after his death.
The petition also highlights the military’s efforts to prevent funeral prayers for Uzun in Erzurum’s Tekman district. Soldiers reportedly pressured the village imam and mayor to prevent the ceremony, and even the call to prayer was silenced in the village for three days.
Even war has ethical limits
Ibrahim Uzun, the father of Yılmaz Uzun, whose remains were delivered in a box, expressed his anguish and frustration over the treatment of his son’s remains. He stated, “Even war has ethical limits. There should be respect for the dead, but these people have neither respect for the dead nor the living.” Ibrahim Uzun also detailed the pressure his family faced from authorities, saying, “The police were insisting every day, coming to our home and trying to scare us with words like, ‘If you don’t go to the HDP front, someone will come and say your son is dead.'”
Ibrahim Uzun further elaborated on the obstacles his family encountered while trying to bury his son. “We faced arbitrary obstructions at every step. The village was under siege. They didn’t provide a funeral vehicle; they called the imam and told him to leave the village. They didn’t allow anyone other than the immediate family to participate in the burial process,” he explained. Uzun vowed to continue fighting for justice, stating, “I promise over my son’s bones, we will continue on this path. Their path is our path; their dreams are our dreams. This is our promise to them.”
In a disturbing extension of the mistreatment surrounding funerals and the deceased, veteran Kurdish politician Gültan Kışanak has also faced a harrowing ordeal following her sister’s funeral. Granted special leave to attend the ceremony, the jailed politician was abruptly removed from the cemetery and subjected to inhumane conditions. Held overnight in a squalid storeroom without her essential medication, she was denied contact with her family and legal counsel. The incident has sparked outrage, with MP Sevda Karaca Demir calling for an immediate investigation by Turkey’s Justice Ministry. This episode not only highlights the systemic issues surrounding the treatment of the deceased and their families but also raises alarming questions about the punitive measures being employed against political figures in Turkey.
Peace building necessitates human dignity
The Respect for the Deceased Initiative, an advocacy group, has added its voice against such mistreatment. In a written statement, the group pointed out that Uzun’s family had provided a blood sample for identification in 2020, but the remains were not returned for three years and were instead buried in a pauper’s grave. The group also mentioned the case of Şakir Turan, a 70-year-old prisoner who died of cancer, whose funeral was initially obstructed in Amed and later took place under police surveillance.