Hundreds of people, including Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) MPs and representatives of several NGOs, visited Turkey’s eastern Erzurum province on Thursday to show solidarity with the family of Hakan Arslan, whose remains were delivered to his family in a bag seven years after his death in clashes with Turkish security forces.
Arslan was killed in the Sur district of Diyarbakır (Amed) during the curfews under heavy military operations by Turkish security forces in Kurdish-majority provinces between late 2015 and early 2016. His family heard of Arslan’s death on the news, but were unable to get a hold of his body at the time. His remains were discovered six years later, and delivered to his father in August after being held in the Forensic Medicine Institute for an autopsy for 10 months. The remains were placed in a plastic bag marked as ‘forensic property’.
“Delivering the remains to the family in a bag seven years later is torture, and a crime against humanity,” HDP Group Deputy Chairwoman Meral Danış Beştaş said during the visit, calling for “all who speak of democracy” to raise their voice against the family’s suffering.
“Wherever we have our dead, wherever our graves lie, that is our land, our country. The HDP will never stop defending our graves and our dead,” the deputy said.
Such offences against human remains are not approved of “even in wars between tribes”, Democratic Society Congress (DTK) Co-chair Berdan Öztürk said. “This shows us that this state has surpassed all oppressors in history in its cruelty.”
Images of the father receiving his son’s bones from the courthouse in a plastic bag sparked reactions at the time. Italian artist Gianluca Costantini painted a mural in an Istanbul street depicting the moment.
The Arslans are one among many Kurdish families since the peak of Turkey’s conflict with Kurdish forces in the 1990s to receive remains in this manner, or have the graves of their loved ones desecrated in other ways.