Between 16 August 2015 and 14 March 2016, eight successive curfews were declared in Turkey’s Kurdish district of Nusaybin (Nisêbîn) in Mardin (Mêrdîn) province. The curfews, accompanied by military operations against Kurdish fighters, and on many occasions indiscriminately targeting civilians, resulted in many casualties on both sides.
According to the records of the prosecutor’s office, a total of 69 police, military troops and village guards were killed in clashes, and 528 were wounded, while the Civil Protection Units (YPS), an armed youth wing of the Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK), announced that 51 YPS and YPS/Jin (women’s units) members were killed.
MEBYA-DER (an association for solidarity with the families of victims killed in armed conflict), has announced that the remains of 83 individuals, both civilians and fighters, have been retrieved in Nusaybin.
In the six years since the incidents, the remains of many individuals have reportedly still not been handed over to their families, allegedly because of mismatches in DNA analysis. Three families have been unable to retrieve remains even despite matching DNA samples.
A Kurdish mother, Leyla Değer, like so many others, has been trying to retrieve the remains of her son for six years.
Speaking to Mezopotamya News Agency, she said that it was on the TV news that she had first learnt of the death of her son, Abdülselam Değer.
“We were unable to find his body, so we started searching. We asked [the authorities] for his body, and they told us that his remains had not been identified. We provided blood samples on three separate occasions (…) I am still searching. I want his remains to be buried close to us. It has been six years since the event, and I am still searching. I want him to be laid to rest.’”
Leyla Değer also indicated that she had been summoned by the prosecutor’s office and told that she had a ‘parcel’ to collect, adding that she recalled at that moment how the body of Agit İpek (a PKK fighter killed in clashes) had been sent to his family in a box.
“That was a big insult. I thought I was going to receive my son’s body in a box (…) I went to the prosecutor’s office, but they only gave me some documents and told me that the body had not yet been identified. I have had no further information since that day.”
She called out to families in similar situations, saying:
“Let us stand together (…) Let our children be buried close to us.”