Nazım Babaoğlu, a journalist working for the Özgür Gündem newspaper – one of the most prominent Kurdish media organs in Turkey during the 1990’s – was ‘disappeared’ on 12 March 1994 in Turkey’s Şanlıurfa (Riha) province.
He was forcedly ‘disappeared’ 27 years ago. Murat Yogunlu, a reporter at Anadolu Agency (AA) had called him, saying: “There is news in Siverek, come here urgently”. Babaoğlu had travelled to Siverek where he filed a report with the headline: ‘Here are rapist village guards’. Two days after this report was published, Babaoğlu was ‘disappeared’.
Babaoğlu’s report had revealed that the village guards in a Siverek village had sexually assaulted a teacher. The village guards were reported to have been members of the ‘Bucak tribe’. Sedat Bucak, known as the leader of the ‘Bucak tribe’, was the then deputy of the True Path Party (DYP). The Prime Minister at the time was Süleyman Demirel, the General Director of Police was Mehmet Ağar and the Governor of Şanlıurfar was Tevfik Ziyayeddin Akbulut who was the previous Justice and Development Party (AKP) Tekirdağ MP at the time of this incident.
The prosecutor did not provide protection to a key witness
In Turkey, the number of murders by the death squads, ‘unknown perpetrators’ and ‘forced disappearances’ reached the highest levels during the 1990’s. The ‘special teams’ and ‘village guards’ acted freely, torturing and forcibly disappearing people at will. The state did not tolerate any opposition and continued to use pressure to judicially and extra-judicially close down publications, trade unions and mass organizations.
Cemal Babaoğlu, the brother of Nazım Babaoğlu, noted in an interview with Mesopotamia Agency (MA) that Murat Yoğunlu who called his brother to Siverek had worked for AA at that time, but had good relations with the Kurdish press.
“Murat was taken into custody for being in contact with the Kurdish press. We haven’t heard from him since then. Murat also refused to testify. ‘I am neither working for the newspaper, nor did I call anyone’, he later told us”, reported Cemal.
Cemal Babaoğlu, when interviewed by MA, stated that İhsan Avcı, the BDP (Peace and Democracy Party) Istanbul Bureau Chair, called Murat Yoğunlu and asked him about the incident.
“I have no life safety. If they accept me as a secret witness, I’ll tell them everything”, Murat Yoğunlu reportedly told the BDP politican. “They talked to the prosecutor, but the prosecutor did not give him protection. So Murat could not reveal everything he knew”, said Cemal Babaoğlu.
Case suspiciously dropped at the ECHR
After the Babaoğlu family applied to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), “my father was detained by the Anti-Terror Police at the station of Urfa. The police insulted my father and they also made my father sign a paper. My father’s Turkish is weak but he signed it. Two months later, our lawyer informed us that the file had been dropped from the ECHR. We never learned what it was that he signed, but we guessed it was a petition for the retraction of the case”, said Cemal Babaoğlu.
Two years after Nazım’s disappearance, his father learned that the person who threatened him at the Anti-Terror Police station was the notorious drug-dealer and hired killer Abdullah Çatlı, who reportedly was working with state entities. “My father saw his face on the TV and told me that the man appearing on the screen was the person who insulted him at the Anti-Terror Police station. Abdullah Çatlı had a warrant of arrest with a red notice, but here he could work and operate at the Anti-Terror Police station whilst continuing with his activities in Kurdistan”, Cemal Babaoğlu noted.
“My mother could not accept Nazım’s death. She thought her son would come in every moment and she passed away with this feeling. Losing a person means losing all feeling for society. So it means the death of humanity”.