Hacı Bişkin/ DUVAR

According to the Diyarbakır branch of the Human Rights Association (İHD), armored police vehicles have killed 36 people in ten years, and wounded 85. 16 of those killed by the vehicles were children. 

Six-year-old Efe Tektekin was killed after being hit by an anti-riot cannon vehicle (TOMA) in 2018. 15 months prior to Tektekin’s death, his 65-year-old grandfather Mehmet Tektekin was killed after he was struck by an armored car.

Though a two-year, six-month prison sentence is being sought for the police officer responsible for killing the child, a recent expert’s report determined that the death was accidental.

In 2017, in the Silopi district of the southeastern, predominantly-Kurdish province of Şırnak, six-year-old Furkan Yıldırım and his seven-year-old brother Muhammed were killed after being crushed by an armored police vehicle that rammed the wall of their home. Despite the fact that the responsible police were not licensed to be driving that type of vehicle, they were acquitted by an area court. 

In 2018 in Şirnak’s Cizre district, five-year-old Onur Özalp was seriously injured after being hit by an armored vehicle. Nine months later, Özalp succumbed to his injuries. 

According to lawyer Gülden Sönmez from the Human Rights and Justice Movement, such vehicles are not appropriate for use in urban areas and if they are to enter traffic, routes and traffic signals need to be designed accordingly and the public needs to be informed about the specifications and risks of these vehicles. 

“When these incidents occur, at times the person operating the vehicle explains that they did not hear the screams of the victims. That is because since these vehicles are built to be protected from explosions, sound does not pass through as it would in civilian vehicles. In an another incident, the defense was based on the fact that the driver couldn’t see the victim because the vehicle’s windshield was situated much higher than normal,” Sönmez said. 

According to lawyer Kaya Kartal from the Association for Human Rights and Solidarity for the Oppressed, regardless of the intent, possible intent, recklessness, neglect, and any other reasons associated with the deaths, the incidents should be investigated with all possible methods and those  responsible should be brought to justice without favoritism being a factor. 

“There are many incidents involving armored vehicles and these continue to happen. Based on previous studies that we have conducted, we have observed that there is a general complaint that these vehicles are used at extremely high speeds and in uncontrolled manners. Even in the most basic accident, these vehicles have the potential to cause much more harm than normal and while they need to be used more sensitively than other vehicles, what we are observing is the opposite,” Kaya said. 

“In East and Southeastern Anatolia, deaths resulting from armored vehicles are an open wound for us. There are ways of preventing this. One of these is preventing armored cars from entering cities if possible, and if they do enter, they should be very careful, said Rights Initiative Association President Mehmet Arif Koçer.