The desecration of the bodies of Kurdish militants killed in clashes with state forces is a common practice in Turkey, but there are increasing efforts to confront this. These practices involve such things as the desecration of graveyards, the burying of dead in secret spots, dragging naked corpses behind vehicles, or delivering the remains of the dead to families in packing cases.
Lawyer Gülan Çağın Kaleli from the Initiative for Respect and Justice for the Dead, told Mesopotamia News Agency about some of the things the families of fallen fighters had to endure…
“We’ve been told similar things when we’ve met with families before starting a legal process,” she said. “We had a family in Garzan, for example, who had to bury their relative seven times over. There are families who received threats from officers. The police and gendarmes have even recently deployed a tactic of calling the families and saying, “You will delete the headstone inscriptions with your own hands and send us a photograph…'”
Kaleli indicated how unfair it was for the families to be either constantly trying to mend the damaged gravestones or re-burying the removed bodies, never being able to achieve closure following the death of their kin.
The cemetery in the village of Garzan, mentioned by Kaleli, was recently in the headline of a news article. The article in the government’s Daily Sabah boasted on 26 August that “a secret PKK graveyard had been discovered” in Garzan cemetery in Turkey’s southeastern province of Bitlis.
The article, published under the sub-category of “war on terror”, also brazenly revealed an official act of desecration. It said that the authorities “contacted the families of the deceased terrorists to inform them that they could pick up the remains from Kilyos cemetery in Istanbul”, a city 1000 miles from Garzan.
Not only was the article a blatant confirmation of desecration, but it was also not credible, since the operation it mentioned on the graveyard had actually occurred in December 2017.
Hundreds of bodies were removed and delivered to Istanbul at the time to be buried under pavements in plastic boxes.
The images of rows of boxes were captured on camera by the Mesopotamian News Agency when the remains were once again removed to be sent for DNA analysis on the request of some of the families.
Another incident of desecration occurred more recently in Erciş in Turkey’s eastern province of Van, when graves were destroyed by soldiers and village guards (local mercenaries) in April 2020.
On 14 July 2021, the Turkish state news agency claimed that a mass grave for the victims of the People’s Protection Units (YPG) was discovered in Afrin in northern Syria, but this was later proved actually to be a graveyard for YPG fighters, desecrated by occupying Turkish forces.