Is that so, Justice Minister Gül?

Last week, Turkey’s Minister of Justice Abdülhamit Gül said that justice needs to be carried out according to conscience, the law and the Constitution, not according to personal influences. According to the government, a law reform means forming a new order in which no one will be able to speak of or demand law reform. while they say “reform” they mean “deform.” Because if the law was truly enforced no matter what, as the Justice Minister claims it is, could the Kurkut case have ended like this?

“Live bomb.” That’s what the Governor of Diyarbakır, a southeastern province in Turkey, said when Kemal Kurkut, a young protestor was killed. While he was alive before being killed, there were no bombs whatsoever. Who’s ever seen a suicide bomb who runs around naked from the waist up?

The governor’s “bomb” was left in his hand, perhaps to be dropped onto someone else on another occasion.

It was left in his hand because Abdurrahman Gök, (who was a reporter for DİHA news agency at that time, before it was closed down by a decree-law [KHK]) photographed what happened. Everything was crystal clear. Policemen - who were encouraged – reached out for their guns, and took Kemal Kurkut’s life. The governor’s discourse attempted to justify his shooting. In other words, he tried to convince everyone that it was not was it seemed.

The right to kill

While everyone could see what actually happened as Abdurrahman Gök took the photos, the police officer who shot Kemal Kurkut was acquitted.
What if Kemal Kurkut was not a “suicide bomber”? There is an immemorial mechanism in place: Impunity. That’s the term lawyers use, but I would opt for “the right to kill.” The facilitation in the firing of guns, the attempt of the governor to cover up the death with an imaginary bomb, are all meant to protect the use of this right. While the law tries to protect the “right to live” against the state, this is the right to kill which the state is protecting against individuals. It is not for no reason that we have been hearing the phrase “the right of sword” frequently in recent years: it is the ideological justification for the right to kill.

The procedure of the right to kill

There are three phases in exercising the right to kill, which we can refer to as the “unwritten procedure of impunity.” First, all means are activated to prevent a case from being filed. In the event where an effective legal battle is fought and the case is filed, this does not mean things get easier. The administrative-judicial bureaucracy produces a new hurdle with its staff. If all the hurdles are passed and it is the time for a decision, then either an acquittal or a minimum penalty is applied, accompanied by all kinds of illogical reasoning and the case is closed.

An acquittal entails the victory of the right to kill. Between the lines of the court’s justification, there is an unwritten element which states “Don’t be shy, heroes.” In other words, this is not only a decision regarding the murder of Kemal Kurkut; this is a decision that applies to everyone remaining in the realm of the state’s jurisdiction. It is a decision that demonstrates that the capital punishment is still effective, in an unwritten form. As usual, Turkey’s opposition parties did not utter any significant declaration – except for the HDP, of course. No one can pretend to still be in the opposition without denouncing this acquittal decision, which effectively condones the killing of a citizen.

What did the minister say?

Last week, Turkey’s Minister of Justice mentioned reforms and said the following: “Guys, the justice functions not according to the conjuncture, not according to personal influences, not according to what others say. Justice is carried out according to the case, to conscience, the law and the Constitution. This is our expectation.” “The real issue is the practice,” he added.

Well, what does the Minister of Justice say? He is only surfing between the written laws and unwritten laws. It is written that everybody is equal, but upon shedding light on the paper, it reads as “Kurds aren’t so equal.”

According to the government, a law reform means forming a new order in which no one will be able to speak of or demand law reform. In other words, while they say “reform” they mean “deform.” Because if the law was truly enforced no matter what, as the Justice Minister claims it is, could the Kurkut case have ended like this?

1- Details of the case can be reached at “” which has closely monitored the case. Even the text at this link is adequate to understand what has been going on. 

2- The murderer of Kemal Kurkut has been acquitted but journalist Abdurrahman Gök who photographed and posted the images of that bloody scene is being prosecuted with 20 years of imprisonment. This case is actually a state operation toward the protection of the right to kill; it is not a law case or a criminal suit. The reason is that the government wants media that would conceal the killing; and in the case it cannot hide it, it wants media that would justify it. Journalist Gök’s crime was not abiding by this demand. Gök said this. 

3- When one listens to the Minister of Justice, one is truly surprised at the difference between the “expectation” and the “act.” He said, “If both the loser and winner in a case can say ‘it would have been the same decision no matter who,’ then there the truth has prevailed and justice has been served. This is what society with its workers, employers, students, civil servants, farmers and tradesmen expects from the justice system. Let justice be done, no matter if the world ends; that is what we expect from the judges, from the members of the judiciary. ‘What would this or that say? The person who was at the courthouse suggested this. How would this view this? How would he evaluate this? Is this suitable for the conjuncture?’ Guys, the justice functions not according to the conjuncture, not according to personal influences, not according to what others say. Justice is done according to the case, to conscience, law and the Constitution. This is our expectation.” There used to be such a thing as a “lie,” and now a word has been invented which is “post-truth.” Thus, it probably means “Speak your mind; you have the power anyway.”

4- The murder of Kemal Kurkut is, in fact, only one instance in a long history of copy murders. Another was the Berkin Elvan murder. It is worthwhile to remember a couple of them because the consent supporting this mechanism is huge when the victim is Kurdish.
In the Yüreğir district of Adana, Mazlum Akay, who was 11 years old, was hit by a gas canister on October 29, 2012. Akay later died on August 4. The office of the prosecutor ruled “The range of the gas rifle is 150 meters, there were 153 meters between the child and the police,” and declared to proceed no further. Yet the question arises as to how a cartridge could kill a child? No prosecutor seems to have tackled it.

On July 24, 2011, the 13-year-old Doğan Teyboğa was hit by a gas canister in the southeastern town of Silopi. The office of the district governor announced for three days that “a hard object had hit his head.” He was taken to hospital by the police, but he couldn’t be saved. The “hard object” was the gas canister from the tear gas rifle used by the police. The decision was not to proceed any further.

Fourteen people were killed during protests in the southeastern Province of Diyarbakır and its surrounding provinces on 28-31 March 2006. Among those killed were the 8-year-old Enes Ata and İsmail Erkek, the 17-year-old Mahsum Mızrak, the 24-year-old İlyas Aktaş and the 22-year-old Tarık Ataykaya. All were killed by gas canisters. The Tarık Ataykaya file was closed in 2008. Turkey was sentenced by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) for this.

The canister that caused Enes Ata's death was lost in the forensic unit. The police, without a court order, also destroyed Enes Ata’s bloodstained t-shirt. A memorandum sent to the court by the police in 2015 reported that all radio recordings of police officers on the day of the incident had been erased. An investigation was opened into the loss of evidence, but the result was no surprise: nolle prosequi.

The Mızrak family took the case to the ECHR on the grounds that “no effective investigation was carried out” while the case was ongoing. On October 18, 2016, Turkey was convicted of “violating the right to live” and “not conducting an effective investigation.”  

In the main case, a verdict was reached at the 40th hearing: Not enough evidence was obtained. Three policemen were acquitted. The evidence was lost in the forensic unit. Government officials are innocent, you know, if the evidence has been lost while entrusted to the state! The verdict was reversed, but it was acquittal again on October 20, 2019. What more can a judicial system do to declare that those who died are not quite considered as worthwhile to investigate?

5- If “reform” means de-forming the law, it entails the effective endorsement of lawlessness. Until recently, the group of citizens that fell into the category of “suitable to kill without being questioned” were mostly made up of Kurds. They still constitute the majority. However, it is only a matter of time before everyone becomes “Kurdish” as we remain silent to all these.

6- In a place where the law is “to kill” and not “to live;” of course, people from the gangland are kings, while people like philanthropist businessperson Osman Kavala and former HDP co-chair Selahattin Demirtaş are imprisoned. It is not for nothing that Çakıcı speaks like a statesman.

March 24, 2021 A Turkey without Kurds