“Deaths involving armoured cars are so frequent and widespread that people are inured of them; they have become normalised. They are almost not even seen as newsworthy,” writes Kenan Kırkaya for Yeni Yaşam.
I was still a child when I learnt what the cold iron hulk called a Panzer car was for and why it had been deployed in the Kurdish provinces. It was only a matter of luck that we did not end up underneath a Panzer car which followed a People’s Democracy Party (HADEP) convoy on its election tour in 1994 in Malazgirt and was driven at us because we had made victory signs to the convoy. Then we were taken inside the Panzer car and shown the ‘might of the state’. Through the years since, I have always remembered those ambulant death turrets called armoured cars, which patrolled the streets at top speed, were made into mobile torture centres and driven into people sitting out on the pavements drinking tea and chatting.
None of these things I lived through and have remained in the past, none of them are allowed to be bygones, none of them are mere stories. All are still realities that continue to be experienced. Unfortunately, some of the children who learn what an armoured car is are not as lucky as we were. Taha Kılıç, who was crushed and killed under a police Panzer car on İpekyolu in Van on 24 July 2016, was only 4 years old. It was probably the first Panzer car he had seen; it was his Azrael, his Angel of Death. Like the Jewish child in the film ‘Life is Beautiful’, he was not even allowed to live to an age where he could appreciate play in his daily life. Umut Özalp, killed by an armoured car in the İdil district of Şırnak on 17 December 2017, was also 4 years old, the same age as Taha. Whichever Kurdish province you live in, you do not even need to be out on the streets to be killed by armoured cars. Two brothers living in Şırnak, 6-year-old Furkan and 7-year-old Muhammed Yıldırım, were killed by an armoured car that drove through their house on 4 May 2017.
Dozens of people, Pakize Hazar (85) in Lice in Diyarbakır, Ali Sezer (92) in Dersim, Gülten Yaraşlı (55) in Bitlis, Felek Batur (7) in Siirt, Kerem Aslan (33) in Batman, Yusuf Yılan (9) in Erzurum Maziye Aslan (11) in Hakkari and dozens of others in dozens of cities, have suffered the same fate as Taha and the brothers Muhammed and Furkan. They were crushed and killed by armoured cars. And unfortunately most recently, the name of 23-year-old Abdulgaffar Dayan has been added to these names.
According to some data, from 2008 to January 2022, there were 95 incidents, 93 of them in Kurdistan, involving armoured cars. In these incidents, 56 people lost their lives, of whom 21 were children, and 141 were wounded, of whom at least 23 were children. All of these incidents have been labelled accidents. For almost every fatal incident, court proceedings have ended in dismissal. Those responsible have been cleared and left unpunished, just as in the Roboski incident in which 34 Kurds were killed by warplanes.
The list is long. It is a devastating and excruciating job to collect the names and keep a tally of those killed in this region, especially children, but sadly it is pervasive. Deaths involving armoured cars are so frequent and widespread that people are accustomed to them; they have become normalised. They are almost not even seen as newsworthy. The daily killing of children in the prisons, the streets, their homes, and the insults deemed appropriate to their bodies are talked about less in Turkey than in any daily incident. It is an indicator of the lack of value assigned to our lives. Let’s say the administration and its accomplices who take advantage of it cover up the deaths or do not want to see them because they are responsible; in any case, they do not place importance on them because they see the Kurds as deserving of this. All right, so what about the other sectors, who are unsettled by the life the administration forces upon Turkey, who calls for ”democracy and freedom”?
I ask myself why the killings of Kurds out in the streets are not as newsworthy as the arrest of a journalist who supports the attacks? What were they saying, certain significant names in Kemalist circles like Yılmaz Özdil, more clearly expressing the precipice that Turkey is being dragged towards, the disasters it is experiencing? “… this is human rights: If any person is treated unlawfully, this carries over in sequence, there will not be one person in that community who will not receive their share of this unlawfulness. The person experiencing that unlawfulness may seem to be far, far removed from you, but eventually, with the ‘eternal decline’, your turn will come.”
The start of the eternal decline was when the gun barrel of the panzer was turned towards the Kurds, the place where it vomited death onto the streets. Eternal decline, eternal rot, eternal immorality, eternal hypocrisy is embodied in those who are ‘democratic’ just among themselves, blocking their ears to the grief that we are stricken with, those who weep at the injustices they suffer themselves going so far as to applaud the injustices and oppression suffered by the Kurds. The eternal decline of your hypocrisy kick-started your hostility to the Kurds, which is no less bitter than that of the administration. As long as you fail to overcome this disease, you will not escape this decline. Whatever the Kurds are made to face will inevitably one day turn on you. The only place you can stop all the injustices which unsettle you is the place where the eternal decline started, the Kurdish neighbourhood!