Turkish Defense Minister dodges opposition inquiry into soldier suicides

Following reports that there have been thousands of “suspicious deaths” of soldiers in the last two decades, opposition MPs asked Defense Minister Hulusi Akar to release the official number of soldier suicides. The Minister refused to do so.

This file photo shows Defense Minister Hulusi Akar.

Duvar English

Defense Minister Hulusi Akar is dodging questions from main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) MP Murat Bakan about how many soldiers have died by suicide while doing their compulsory military service in Turkey. According to official numbers, thousands of “suspicious deaths” of soldiers have been recorded since 2000.

The latest data released by the Ministry of National Defense (MSB) covers the years from 2000 to 2012, in which according to official data 934 soldiers died “suspicious deaths.” However, according to the Association for Suspicious Deaths and Victims, over 3,000 soldiers died “suspiciously” between 2000 and 2020. In 2021 alone, 10 suspicious deaths were reported. 

These deaths have been the subject of increased public attention as of late. 

Opposition CHP İzmir Deputy Murat Bakan submitted an official question to Defense Minister Akar before parliament, a right granted deputies by the Turkish Constitution. He wanted the Ministry to account for this discrepancy in numbers and to reveal official data of how many soldiers committed suicide during service. 

The Minister is required to provide the data by parliamentary procedure. 

Akar instead said that an “administrative investigation” had been opened into the matter and that “necessary measures” were taken against those responsible. He also said that the military had all necessary safeguards in place to prevent suicides.

Bakan said this was insufficient.

“The answer you gave does not correspond to our questions,” he said.

Bakan says this is another example of Turkey’s one-man-rule system under President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. 

“Not answering the question posed by a deputy who is elected by the nation and performing his duty means not recognizing the Constitution and the law. Every step [AKP politicians] take, every breath they take, they ask themselves, 'what does the President ask for,' 'what does the President say,’” he said.

Bakan said, further, that Akar’s lack of response was an affront to the office of parliamentary representatives and to the people they represent, they only have concern for the opinion and beliefs of the President.

“They do not feel an iota of responsibility towards the people and the deputies they elect and send to parliament. I don't even think they have any respect for themselves or their office,” Bakan said.

He has again submitted the same questions to the Minister, who now has 15 days to respond.