Eight years have passed since the 2015 Suruç (Pirsûs) Massacre, and yet, the defendant’s chair in the trial remains empty. Lawyers involved in the case argue that the Turkish government’s policy towards the Islamic State (ISIS) needs to be scrutinised.
Urfa (Riha) Bar Association President Abdullah Öncel said the trial had not been thorough, and that the bomber’s connections had not been explored. According to Öncel, persons who helped bring bomber Abdurrahman Alagöz to the location and provide him with the bomb must be explored, and those with influence on Turkey’s ISIS policy should be questioned.
Former co-chair of the Human Rights Association’s Urfa branch Mustafa Vefa expressed concern about the apparent unlawfulness in the case since its inception.
According to Vefa, a man who was apprehended with an ISIS flag on his person after the explosion that killed 33 people was released by the Turkish police without testifying, which he believes was indicative of a policy of impunity.
The Suruç Massacre in July was among the first suicide bombings by ISIS in Turkey in 2015, targeting left-wing and Kurdish activists who met in the namesake town to cross into the sister town of Kobanê across the border in northern Syria, to help with the rebuilding efforts after Kurdish-led forces ended an ISIS siege. Thirty three people were killed, and more than 100 were injured.
The massacre came after the 7 June elections, where the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) lost the parliamentary supermajority for the first time in 2002. It was preceded by twin bombs ISIS detonated at a Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) rally on 5 June, when five people were killed and 400 were injured.
After a turbulent summer when a fragile peace process between Turkey and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) collapsed and opposition parties failed to form a government, ahead of the snap elections in November, ISIS suicide bombers attacked a peace rally in the Turkish capital that has since come to be known as the Ankara Train Station Massacre. In this October bombing, 109 people lost their lives and more than 500 were injured.
In the Suruç case, one man faced trial behind bars while two suspects remained at large. Arrestee Yakup Şahin was sentenced to 34 counts of life in prison in 2021. Suspect Deniz Büyükçelebi, also accused of involvement in the Ankara massacre, was reportedly killed in conflict in Syria, in a bombing by the US-led international coalition againt ISIS. His death was not confirmed. Meanwhile, the fugitive so-called Turkey amir for ISIS İlhami Balı is known to have received treatment at a Turkish public hospital as an active Interpol red notice was out for his capture.
Then-Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu had called ISIS “a group of angry young men” at the time. The AKP heavyweight had a falling out with his party after the June elections, and left the party in 2019. After he resigned to establish his own Future Party (GP), he said the period between the two elections had been “one of the most critical times in the history of the republic”, and that “many people would not be able to show their faces” if there was ever an honest account of Turkey’s fight against terrorism.
Kurdish and left-wing politicians, as well as survivors of the bombings and families of the victims, have called on Davutoğlu to speak and appealed to the courts to have the former premier testify under oath, but he has not done so. In 2020, some families pressed charges against Davutoğlu.