Kemal Kurkut, Abdurrahman Gök, the Şenyaşar family, Ali Ismail Korkmaz and a murdered member of the Grey Wolves tell us everything we need to know about the current state of Turkish politics. The situation is dramatic.
The oldest case in this list is that of Ali İsmail Korkmaz, a 19-year-old man who was murdered by a group of police officers and civilians during the Gezi protests against the government in 2013. This week, one of the cops involved was sentenced to seven months and fifteen days for causing ‘minor injury’. The family announced they will continue their quest for justice at the European Court of Human Rights.
The cases of Kemal Kurkut and Abdurrahman Gök are connected. Kemal Kurkut was a Kurdish music student who wanted to enjoy the Newroz (21 March) celebrations in Diyarbakır in 2017. He was murdered by police at the security check at the entrance of the Newroz celebrations area. The authorities declared that Kurkut was wearing a bomb belt, but Kurdish journalist Abdurrahman Gök was right there with his camera and recorded exactly what happened: Kurkut was unarmed and brutally shot dead for no reason whatsoever.
Whom did the prosecutor decide to prosecute? Of course: Abdurrahman Gök. He was charged with ‘making propaganda for a terrorist organisation’, and last week, his sentence of a year and a half in prison was upheld. The cop who murdered him was also prosecuted, and his sentence was revealed this week: no sentence at all. Journalist Gök said last week that he was glad that he took the pictures, because maybe the murderers were not jailed, but Kemal’s family at least knew for sure that their child had been innocent.
The Şenyaşar case goes back to 2018. It was an election year, and a Justice and Welfare Party (AKP) MP came to Suruç, a Kurdish town at the Syrian border, to campaign. He visited small businesses too, but when he came to the shop of the Şenyaşar family, he was told that they didn’t want him there. Soon, shots were fired in the shop. The father of the family and three sons were injured and rushed to hospital, where yet another shooting took place, leaving the father and two sons dead. The AKP MP lost his brother in the incident.
The AKP MP, İbrahim Halil Yıldız, was later elected and still holds his parliamentary seat. The Şenyaşar son who survived the hospital shooting was arrested after he was discharged from hospital, and remains jailed. Nobody from Yıldız’s group was jailed. Evidence, like security camera footage from the hospital, disappeared. Yet another son and the mother of the family, Emine Şenyaşar, have been holding a sit-in in front of the court house in Urfa since March 2020, demanding justice. This week, there was a hearing in the case, but no progress was made and the next hearing will be held later this year.
From İbrahim Halil Yıldız it’s only a small step to another fascist who has been in the news: Sinan Ateş, the former leader of the Grey Wolves movement. The difference between Yıldız and Ateş is that the first is alive and kicking and in parliament, and the latter has been dead and buried since late December, after he died in a targeted killing in Ankara.
Several people have been remanded in custody, among them the alleged shooter, who was also involved in the murder of a young man, Hasan Ferit Gedik, who had joined a protest against drug cartels in Istanbul in 2013.
Ateş was removed from the Grey Wolves and from its mother party the (governing) MHP in 2020, even though he had criticized MHP members who joined the Good Party (İYİ), a still rather new party that broke away from the MHP and is now an important opposition party. This week, a second prosecutor was added to the case, a man who is very well-connected in ultra-nationalist circles. We’ll have to wait and see what it means exactly, but it sure looks like the powers that be are closing ranks.
Each of these cases is in itself telling of the state of affairs in Turkey, but all together, they paint a chilling picture. Ali İsmail Korkmaz and Hasan Ferit Gedik were both members of Turkey’s Alevi community, as was Berkin Elvan, the boy who was killed during the Gezi protest when he went out to buy bread – remember? The Alevi community in Turkey is huge but to a certain extent, they are marginalized, especially when they are politically connected to Turkey’s revolutionary leftist movement with few friends in the state’s official institutions.
Kurds are murdered with complete impunity and those who kill them have absolutely nothing to fear from prosecutors and judges, and even their seats in parliament will be safe. Those who expose the murderers fearlessly are among those in the most trouble. Praise for Abdurrahman Gök and his many brave Kurdish colleagues. Praise to the Şenyaşar family, who have nothing left to lose.
While writing this, I realized that this week, on 19 January, it will be sixteen years ago that Turkish-Armenian journalist Hrant Dink was killed by a young ultra-nationalist who was enabled by the state. Sixteen years of surreal court cases, and justice is very, very far away. Armenians have historically born the biggest brunt of Turkey’s fascism, and Dink’s case is a tragic example of it.
Tell me who your murdered are, tell me who your prosecuted are, tell me who your free roaming killers are, tell me who your brave souls are, and I will paint the picture of your state.