When the spokesperson for the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) said in the Turkish parliament that the responsibility for the Roboski (Uludere) massacre in 2011 lay with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), he was confronted with protests from opposition party MPs for trying to conceal the identity of the real perpetrators of the massacre.
Thirty four civilians, 19 children among them, from the village of Roboski in Turkey’s Kurdish-majority province of Şırnak (Sirnex), were killed on 28 December 2011 at the border crossing between Turkey and Iraq in a Turkish airstrike, reportedly based on unfounded intelligence that some PKK fighters were among the civilians. No military or civilian officials have been held accountable for the massacre in 10 years.
On Thursday, Levent Gök, an MP for the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), made an address to the parliament in commemoration of the Roboski massacre, and named the two top officials who had given the decision to conduct the airstrike: Hulusi Akar, the current Turkish Defence Minister, and Yaşar Güler, the current Turkish Commander of the General Staff.
“The military officers were confused. There were many intelligence reports flowing in while the young villagers were under the surveillance of unmanned aerial vehicles,” he stated, referring to what had happened that day.
“The General Staff had to arrive at a decision. Initially, a decision to launch mortar fire had been taken. Then, at 7:03pm, Yaşar Güler, the General Staff Intelligence Chief at the time and now the Commander of the General Staff, arrived at the headquarters. He arrived at a decision to conduct an airsrike instead of using mortar fire. He was supposed to have his decision authorised within the chain of command. He took the operation file and went to see the General Staff’s second-in-command, now the Minister of Defence, Hulusi Akar, at 7:20pm. They jointly gave the decision to conduct the airstrike.”
Mustafa Elitaş then spoke, after Gök had clearly indicated who the top military officers responsible for the massacre were. He stated that it was actually the PKK who was to be blamed for the massacre, speculating that a PKK commander might have changed course after he had learned that the military had intelligence about his plans.
“Could it be that this murderer named Fahman Husain decided not to go through that path after he received information that the Turkish National Intelligence Agency, the Ministry of Defence and the General Command had all received information about it?,” he asked.*
“Did they perhaps come to terms with themselves that our children could be left to die there due to false intelligence? Did they do that? This is what should be questioned. Mr. Gök is right, our children…”
His speech was cut in mid-flow as opposition MPs began to protest. “For God’s sake, I’m telling these to the PKK, are you a PKK member? I’m telling these to the terrorists, are you a terrorist?,” he shouted as the protests got louder.
*Bahoz Erdal, also known as Fahman Husain, is reportedly a PKK commander.