On 20 July 2015, 33 people, mainly members of the Federation of Socialist Youth Associations (SGDF), were killed in a massacre in the Suruç (Pirsûs) district of Urfa (Riha), in southeastern Turkey near Syrian border. The massacre was never investigated or processed properly, and a secrecy order was placed on it for 21 months.
Lawyer Gülhan Kaya from the Platform for Justice for Suruç analyses the trial process so far for the ANHA. The case, which was only initiated at the insistence of the Suruç Families Initiative, those injured, witnesses and the Platform for Justice for Suruç, was started on a prison campus in Hilvan in Urfa (Riha) province, far from the world. Those who came to observe were treated as if they themselves were guilty.
Kaya said: “The case was initiated in 2017. We have just had the 19th hearing in this case at Urfa Serious Penalty Court No.5, but we are no further ahead than we were at the beginning. The only suspect brought to trial so far, Yakup Şahin, was also tried and sentenced for the 10 October massacre in Ankara. ISIS gangsters İlhami Bali and Deniz Büyükçelebi are also wanted in this case. There is a red notice out for both of them.”
Kaya stated that the case file of the two ISIS gangsters had been separated from the main file. “The judge is now thinking of coming to a verdict. But there has not been enough examination of telephone records and images… There are several hours of images before the attack… We requested that the court have all these images examined by experts using the latest technology… But unfortunately the court decided against examining these images.”
Due to a secrecy order on the investigation file, she noted, they have been unable to even see it. She said that although they have finally arrested someone who actually has some responsibility in the massacre, this person’s file has not been included in the main case file.
“We have asked for this person’s file to be combined with the Suruç case file, but no steps have been taken. We will keep up the pressure, though. This person must be tried in the Suruç massacre case.”
In the beginning the prosecutor tried to get a few punishments meted out for show, to get the file closed, according to Kaya. “It was clear that the court wanted to rush through and finish it. Actually, this has been their attitude from the very beginning. They want to close the Suruç massacre case,” she said.
“They have collected no evidence at all and have only been forced to keep the case going because of pressure from us, and our persistence. Not just the lawyers; not one hearing has passed without the families, those injured, the public being present… We will follow this case until all those responsible are tried.”
Kaya said that those injured in the massacre, family and SGDF members running the campaign have been repeatedly detained and arrested. “They are trying to silence those they failed to murder in the Suruç massacre with arrests and harrassment. Demonstrations calling for justice are also attacked. Last year a youth action was attacked and many people were detained. I evaluate this in two ways, the first that it is an informed attack against the struggle for justice, and the other that those responsible for the massacre want to get the Suruç massacre forgotten by intimidation through arrest, detention and abduction.”
She believes that the struggle for justice is one that requires deep breaths.“We are often faced with protracted cases where sentences are not issued. Disappearances, Hrant Dink, Sivas, the Ankara massacre are cases in point. There are struggles for justice in all of these, in the four corners of the country. We knew we were embarking on a very long and difficult journey. But we will not give up this struggle until all those responsible have been tried.”