The Senyaşar family has cast their votes after 783 days of vigil for justice for three of their number who were murdered by relatives of a ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) MP in Turkey’s Kurdish-majority southeastern province of Şanlıurfa (Riha).
“We have fulfilled our duty for justice, for a democratic future. No office or position is more important than human life. Our hope is to complete the elections without incident and realise change,” said Ferit Şenyaşar, who is also a parliamentary candidate with the Green Left Party.
Adil Şenyaşar, one of five brothers in the family, was killed in the Suruç (Pirsûs) district of Şanlıurfa on 14 June 2018, when AKP MP İbrahim Halil Yıldız was visiting shopkeepers as part of his election campaign and a fight broke out between Yıldız’s relatives and bodyguards and the Şenyaşar brothers in their family shop.
Two other Şenyaşar brothers were wounded and hospitalised. When the brothers’ parents Hacı Esvet and Emine Şenyaşar heard about the incident and went to the hospital, Yıldız’s relatives came to the hospital and attacked the family once again. The father Hacı Esvet and his son Celal, who had been wounded in the first attack, were both killed in this second attack.
The only person arrested after the incident, in which the father and two sons of the Şenyaşar family were killed, was Fadıl Şenyaşar, who was severely injured and still being treated in hospital. No one from the Yıldız family was arrested despite warrants being issued for them, until a brother of the AKP MP, Enver Yıldız, who was a named suspect, went to the courthouse with a team of 50 bodyguards and turned himself in in September 2019.
Fadıl Şenyaşar, who had lost three members of his family and had been in jail since the day of the incident, was sentenced to 37 years and 9 months at a hearing in the case in April 2021, while Enver Yıldız received 18 years .
The incident sparked outrage in the region, with many accusing the government and its supporters of complicity in the attack. The case has been marred by allegations of government interference and a lack of progress despite the shop’s CCTV footage and calls for a thorough investigation.
Ever since, Emine and her son Ferit have been holding a daily vigil outside the Şanlıurfa Courthouse, supported by siblings Mehmet Şenyaşar and Perihan Yüzügüldü.
The case remains a flashpoint for Kurdish rights and justice in Turkey.