28 people were buried in the mass grave on the Görentaş plateau in the Çatak district of eastern Van province. The mass grave was shockingly discovered with several other mass graves.
The families of those whose remains are lying in these mass graves filed a lawsuit on 12 October 1998 for the return of the remains of their loved ones.
The case has been continuing ever since that time and the families have struggled with a faint hope for justice that the mass graves would be opened and that they would be able to bury their loved ones in proper graveyards with religous rites and rituals.
At the 31st hearing of the case which was heard on 20 April, a local court in Çatak ruled the final decision and denied an appeal for the return of the remains of the Kurdish fighters buried in the mass graves to their families.
If the Court decision is finalised by the upper court, the remains of the Kurdish fighters will be handed over to Çatak District Governorship for burial, and not to their families.
Abdullah Gürtekin, a Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) member, is among those whose family has been struggling for justice for the Turkish authorities to return his remains to them.
“They killed our loved ones, but at least they should be fair enough to let their families have their remains. All we want is a gravestone that my brother’s name can be written on and he can rest in peace in his own grave,” said Eylem Gürtekin, sister of Abdullah Gürtekin in an interview with MA.
Gürtekin expressed her feelings on having passed such a harsh process as a sister who has been going from one court to another in an endless legal struggle to be able to bury her brother.
“When new cases were opened they were showing us new photos of their deceased bodies. These were such tough days. This is such a painful thing, not everyone can go through something like this,” she said.
Gürtekin also shared new information that they have discovered in their struggle about the way in which her brother died.
“They were killed during some clashes, but it does not end with the killing,” she said. “You see your brother was killed and then they photographed his death body having all those marks of torture. We actually saw his bones and this such an indescribable feeling.”
Living in circumstances of war was of course an accepted fact acknowledged by the Gürtekin family as she emphasized. “We knew that we were in a war. But to be a direct witness of a war is something much different than just reading about it on the news,” she said.
No fair access to justice has been given to us, according to Gürtekin, on their years of legal attempts to have a grave for Abdullah Gürtekin.
She shared that no matter how exhausted and hurt they are as a family, their struggle to get the remains of her brother back and to bury him in his on grave will continue.
“Would you be so afraid from a dead body? You have already done your cruelty, why won’t you let it go?” she asked adressing to the Turkish authorities. “Why won’t you give the remains of their loved ones back to the families? We will never give up demanding my brother’s remains.”