Victims of the ‘clashes’ that took place in 2015-16 between Turkish state forces and the sympathizers of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) remain buried in various graveyards for the unclaimed even though several families of the victims have been constantly trying to identify and claim them and give them a proper burial for years, says the co-chair of the Association for Solidarity with Families Who Lost Their Relatives (MEBYA-DER).
Şeyhmus Karadağ indicates that they are aware of 503 funerals that were conducted in graveyards for the unclaimed in five cities. He told MA that 103 families have applied to the association within the past two years to obtain help in identifying the bodies of their loved ones so that they can give them proper family burials.
Clashes had erupted in the Kurdish-majority cities of Diyarbakır (Amed), Hakkari (Colemerg), Mardin (Merdin) and Şırnak (Şirnex) in 2015 after a ‘process’ involving the Turkish state and the PKK for a peaceful resolution of a decades-long armed conflict was terminated by the former and attempts were made at local level to establish autonomous administrations, resulting in the deaths of many PKK symapthizers trying to prevent state forces from taking over cities and towns.
“These people have been buried in graveyards for the unclaimed without attempts to identify and find families related to them. This is morally and religiously unacceptable,” said Karadağ.
He noted that, out of the 103 families who had applied to the association, only 45 could find a way to claim the bodies of their relatives, and several families were denied the opportunity although their DNA samples had been taken.
”The situation has turned into a systematic torture for families,” Karadağ said. “Families have not been informed about their DNA test results for years. This makes their suffering worse, and torments them. Bodies can actually be identified within 24 hours. But they don’t do this on purpose to make the suffering of the families worse and to torment them. The families are subjected to systematic torture over the bodies of their kin.”
Emphasising that it wasn’t only a problem concerning identification processes, Karadağ drew attention to a case involving the funeral of a person named Mercan Erkol: ”Mercan Erkol passed away on 16 October 2017 in Kulp district. His body has not been delivered to his family since then, and has body has currently been kept in the Yeniköy graveyard’s quarter for the unclaimed. His family in Van has tried 10 times unsuccessfully to claim his body. Families are not even able to access their children’s remains.”