An Italian artist has made waves on social media and decorated the streets of Istanbul with a drawing depicting the moment a bereaved Kurdish father was presented with the remains of his son in a plastic bag.
Cartoonist Gianluca Costantini’s illustration shows Ali Rıza Arslan holding a white bag, on which an image of his son Hakan Arslan’s face is visible. A speech bubble from Ali Rıza reads “seven years” – the length of time it took to retrieve Hakan Arslan’s body after he was killed during the Turkish military crackdown in Diyarbakır (Amed) in 2015.
An image of Costantini’s illustration painted onto a wall on an Istanbul street was shared widely on social media channels on Tuesday.
Footage of the bereaved father carrying his son’s bones away from a Diyarbakır court in a plastic sack sparked outrage after it was published this week.
The Arslan family had to wait for seven years to retrieve their son’s remains, which were discovered by an excavation team in Diyarbakır’s historic Sur district in February 2021. Despite DNA tests proving the remains belonged to Hakan Arslan last November, his parents had to wait until late August, 2022 for the Turkish authorities to return them.
Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) government launched heavy military crackdowns on cities which harboured strong support for Kurdish self-governance in 2015, after the breakdown of peace talks with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
Arslan was one of many casualties in the militarised security operations, which also saw 24-hour curfews imposed on large sections of the city, displacing thousands of residents.