The new routine of execution in Turkey

What was “out of the routine” in the 1990s in Turkey has now become the routine. There was some effort and struggle to try and shed light on these unresolved murders back then. However, in this decade, murders happen with perpetrators that are widely known. The evidence and ability to hold people response are there. Even official units do not deny it.

It was noon on November 30. Four children were found wandering around the Anadağ (Beruh) village in the Navberojan area of the Derecik district in the southeastern province Hakkari. Anadağ was their former village. But since the state evacuated the Beruh village, they have been living in the nearby Serekani hamlet (Çeşmebaşı in Turkish, but the name was changed to Bölek by the state). While harsh winter conditions had already started in Hakkari, here in Anadağ, warm winds of the south were still blowing. According to HDP Hakkari deputy Sait Dede, while the children were collecting acorns in their old village in broad daylight, one of them fell to the ground, hit by a shot fired nearby. The boy hit was only 16-years-old. He was born on Sept. 1, 2004. His father is a village guard, who has a gun given to him by the state.   

Sait Dede spoke to the eyewitnesses of the incident who said, “Özcan was shot in the back by troops who opened fire. The other children, M.K, S.Ö. and C.Ö., were stopped by troops who did not allow them to go near their shot friend. The children then called their families nearby and stopped the troops when they saw them trying to move the injured Özcan over near the border to make it look like a boarder-crossing incident. Later, when the families arrived, arguments with the troops lasted three hours. Finally, at 6 p.m. the villagers were allowed to take Özcan and transport him to downtown Derecik. However, there is no hospital in the district of Derecik. The child then was taken to the doctors at the military barracks in the district, but ultimately lost his life.”

Hakkari deputy Dede has filed parliamentary questions about the incident, but they have not been answered. Only when reactions intensified regarding this extrajudicial execution, five days after it occurred, did the Office of the Governor of Hakkari issue a statement. However, this statement was a shocking in its attempt to cover-up the execution; it was an outrageous text, as the deputy pointed out.  

Even though the governor’s statement was shocking, this has become the new normal in Turkey. Let us take a look at the statement sentence by sentence with my own comments made in parentheses:

“On the day of November 30, 2020, at around 2:20 p.m., (this is not the middle of the night, but rather, the middle of the day) in the border region of Yeşilova a neighborhood of Derecik district, in an area adjacent to the prohibited military zone, troops spotted suspicious individuals trying to enter the country (the child was shot in the village not near the border) for smuggling purposes. Our border unit on duty warned them verbally (which would mean they were close enough to give a verbal warning), but they did not respond. Then warning shots were fired into the air and, as a result of this, one citizen was injured (a child was shot and injured by shots fired into the air simply because he did not respond). He died despite the medical efforts at Derecik Field Hospital. The judicial and administrative investigation of the incident is ongoing (this statement tells us that that the “investigation” has already been conducted and finished).”

If a “fuss” had not been made, perhaps the office of the governor would not have felt it  necessary to issue a statement about the killing of 16-year-old Özcan Onay five days after the incident. It was only shortly before this execution that another statement regarding a “routine” execution was issued five days after a similar “fuss” was made. The official argument was that this victim was also guilty.

Özcan Onay, who was shot on Nov. 30 near his village in Derecik, and Şerali Dereli, an man in his 60s who was shot by troops in his village in Yüksekova, are no outliers.

Sertip Şen, a father of five, who was a shepherd in his village, Wargenima (Onbaşılar) in Hakkari, Yüksekova, was killed on May 2, 2019 by troops who opened fire on him while he was grazing his herd.

According to Sertip Şen’s father Cemşit Şen, his son went to Kavlêboş Plateau in the morning to graze his sheep. That evening, women collecting grass in the area found Sertip injured and notified the villagers. Villagers carried the shepherd on their backs for about three kilometers, but Sertip did not survive as he had a gunshot wound near his heart. Şen’s father pointed out that the place his son was shot was near to two security bases saying, “My son was shot in the vicinity of the gendarmerie station. He lay there for a long time losing blood. One can see the station and two base areas from where he was shot. When my son was shot and fell in such a nearby place, why was he not treated,” he asked, adding, “A shepherd is shot in Hakkari, and no one cares about it.”
Not only a shepherd, but anyone killed in Hakkari; nobody cares.
On Aug. 1, 2019, again in Derecik where Özcan was killed, another boy, Vedat Ekici, was shot and killed by troops, he was 14-years-old.
According to the statement of the office of the governor, this child, who had a Republic of Turkey citizen ID, was also told to stop while “trying to illegally cross the border into our country in an area frequently used by terrorist organizations.” Apparently, Vedat did not obey this warning, troops gave a warning shot, “but because the terrain is rough and rocky, a bullet bounced and caused one of our citizens to be injured.”

Only two days after Özcan Onay’s extrajudicial execution, this time in downtown Hakkari, on the busiest street in the city, a police officer fired upon and injured Metin Öztunç and Remzi Duman, during a traffic quarrel.
The statement from the office of the governor about this incident effectively summarizes this “new routine.” It said, “On December 2, 2020 at 7:30 p.m., police officer G.K., who was on leave, was involved in a traffic argument in downtown Hakkari. As a result of this, two of the five people in the other vehicle used physical force against him, clutching his throat. The police officer wounded them by using his gun in a non-life-threatening way. A judicial and administrative investigation of the incident is ongoing.”

It was in the 1990s, when the “low-intensity war” was ongoing, that nefarious relations among the state, JİTEM, Hizbullah, and other coordinators were exposed to the public through the Susurluk accident on Nov. 3, 1996. There was also a case of “lost weapons” which were seized and passed into the hands of Hizbullah. Today, we have the province of Batman, which is once again in the news due to the systematic rape of a 15-year-old child in its Gercüş district. In Batman, the office of the governor imported special heavy weapons, which were previously lost and later found in Hizbullah storage, for the Combined Special Operation Unit founded in the 1990s. The then-president, Süleyman Demirel, almost as if revealing the state-Hizbullah relationship, said about the “lost and found” weapons, “The state goes out of routine.”
What was meant by “the state going out of routine” was that the state had broken its own laws and acted in areas where there was no law; in fact, it had ceased to be a state and became something completely different.

Demirel, passed away long ago, but what he described as a state which went out of routine, now has an even wider and more extreme consequences. The current government can now boast permanent “out of routine” actions. It would certainly boost morale among those operational forces that mercilessly compete with one another.     

In this new routine of this new Turkey, certain law enforcement forces can commit any number of crimes and can conduct extrajudicial killings. Everyone keeps quiet, civilian authorities and the judiciary cover it up, and we journalists write the story only to the extent that we are allowed.
This is the new routine. It is not only the routine of the state, the law enforcement forces, the judiciary, and the civilian authorities, but also the routine of politics, the society and the press. This is a routine we all have adapted to. Almost every week, somewhere “far away,” a young person, a child, an old person is killed, raped, or crippled and the routine we have adopted starts again. If nobody raises a voice, then the dead have died for nothing. If there is any “fuss,” then civilian officers will issue a statement saying that the person who has died is to blame while the killing authority is justified. An investigation is carried out with no substantive outcome. We, journalists, continue writing pieces like the one you are reading. Then the case is closed, never to be opened again.
The names of those killed are not engraved on walls; their pictures are not seen on posters. Even when a case is opened, their hearings are only attended by lawyers and a few politicians. They do notattract the attention of the public anymore. On the anniversary of these executions, no “hashtag” with their names is started. There are no documentaries capturing the tears their mothers shed. Songs are not written or sung for them; their mourning is held behind closed doors.

What was “out of the routine” in the 1990s has now become the routine. There was some effort and struggle to try and shed light on these unresolved murders back then. However, in this decade, murders happen with perpetrators that are widely known. The evidence and ability to hold people response are there. Even official units do not deny it. But still, those responsible are not tried and this routine of “the life” that is now considered acceptable for the Kurds, continues. 

This week’s incident is part of the routine, only this time in Hakkari, where the killing of a 16-year-old child by a gun “fired into the air.” Tomorrow’s routine incident is be the systematic rape of a 15-year-old child in Batman’s Gercüş. You have now read yesterday’s story. Writing tomorrow’s story has already been banned by the court. This too is part of the routine.