Various crimes committed by Turkey’s armed forces and other security organisations have been extensively documented in reports prepared by official state organs, Human Rights Association (İHD) Chairwoman Eren Keskin said in response to the targeting of Kurdish MP Sezgin Tanrıkulu.
“There are some periods when the state mind turns towards a milder approach, and starts to investigate these crimes. The ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) has had such periods too,” the prominent human rights lawyer told Mezopotamya Agency on Friday.
AKP’s initial promise was to end the era of state crime, Keskin said. “They came saying there would be no more enforced disappearances. What they have transformed into today is the mentality that sought to eliminate them.”
Keskin’s comments follow the targeting of main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) MP Tanrıkulu by pro-government media and President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan himself.
Tanrıkulu, who led the establishment of the İHD’s local chapter in the Kurdish-majority southeastern province of Diyarbakır (Amed) in 1988, was accused of lenience towards terrorism during a live broadcast last week, and in response spoke of the convictions Turkey received at the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) over crimes against Kurdish civilians. He was later denounced by his own centrist party.
Keskin mentioned the Susurluk Report, named after the district an infamous car accident took place in, revealing ties among government officials and the mafia, as well as the case of various persons who were disappeared under custody.
“Those lynching Tanrıkulu today should take a look at the reports their predecessors wrote. The Susurluk Report revealed truths that would get us attacked today if we were to repeat them. The Parliamentary Human Rights Commission’s own report said leftwing activist Cemil Kırbayır had been taken into custody, where he was tortured and killed by state forces,” she said.
“We see today the government and opposition come together in defending militarism. I never believed the CHP could find a solution for the Kurdish issue, because the CHP is a party formed by the state and belongs to the state upholding the red lines of the official ideology to the bitter end,” she continued.
CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu “spoke of making peace in order to win the Kurdish vote, but did not even protect his own MP over an issue that Turkey was sentenced to pay compensation by the ECHR,” Keskin said. “That is horrifying.”
An excerpt from Eren Keskin’s comments follows, lightly edited for clarity.
“I personally witnessed the body of a female guerrilla, Ekin Wan, stripped naked to be displayed. Us human rights defenders are the first-hand witness to how the state attempted to cover up the murder of Kurdish politician Vedat Aydın. We witnessed the events that led Kurdish writer Musa Anter to his death. Who committed all these crimes?
“Look at the disappearances of eight people, including three children, in Dargeçit, Mardin (Kerboran, Merdîn). Their families looked for them for years. It turned out that they had been murdered in custody and thrown into acid wells. A specialist sergeant testified, and bones were found in the mass grave he described. What happened? The man who did it, Mehmet Tire, went on to become a mayor.
“The state today wants us to absolve the crimes of its counter-terrorism organisation.
“Back when Musa Çitil was the gendarmerie commander in Mardin, he and 450 soldiers were sued for sexual harassment in custody. Journalists who reported on the case faced charges themselves, and the case was moved to a western province. They were all acquitted.
“Çitil, who retired with the rank lieutenant general as deputy commander of the Gendarmerie General Command, was the officer in charge in the 2015 clashes in Sur, Diyarbakır, which forced 20,000 people to leave their homes and resulted in more than 350 deaths.
“Former interior minister and current MP Mehmet Ağar, former prime minister Tansu Çiller, who were in office during the 1990s at the height of accusations of torture and other serious misconduct against Turkey – who do they stand with today? Nobody can take power unless they reconcile with the deep state, or whatever else you may like to call them. The country is ruled under a policy of fear. I receive threats every day.
“Nobody can feel protected by the law, over international treaties or domestic laws. When people are threatened by the topmost officials of the state, who can say they are safe?
“The treatment of Tanrıkulu is similar to that of Tahir Elçi, the former chairman of the Diyarbakır Bar Association who was murdered in 2015 following his comments on live TV about the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
“I personally do not know what would happen to me when I walk out the door.”