Letter: a personal account of the Turkish repression of Kurds

Turkish police mobilise in Istanbul in 2015 as thousands protest over the death of Tahir Elçi

A Kurdish comrade in Britain relates his family’s harrowing experience of Turkish state repression at a protest over the death of Kurdish human rights lawyer Tahir Elçi in 2015.

The history of us Kurds is rather the history of sorrows than festivals. It is only the Newroz Festival all Kurds look forward to every year with excitement and enthusiasm and even its story is covered with sorrow and tyranny.

Too many are the sorrows of the Kurds. That is why when a Kurd is asked to tell something about his/her people, all the learned and experienced sorrows line up to be retold again. In 2015 Tahir Elçi a Kurdish human rights lawyer and a fighter for human rights was shot dead by the police, among a crowd of hundreds of people when he was delivering a statement to the press.

The Turkish state could not find and identify the perpetrator of such an obvious and clear incident. That is because it was the state itself that was responsible for the murder. When those murdered are Kurds, the court cases last for years and then they are closed without results.

In Izmir, a city in western Turkey, there was a public statement from the HDP (pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party) to be delivered at a press conference, demanding the murderers of Tahir Elçi be found and prosecuted. We went to hear this public statement together as a family including our child. We were a group of 300 citizens demanding justice in the most legitimate and just way.

First, the police shouted and ordered us to disperse and then almost instantly we found ourselves kettled by the fully equipped RoboCop[1] policemen around us with their arms locked to one another. I told my wife and my daughter to go. ‘Go as if you were Turkish people and pretend as if you don’t know what was going on here. Go as somebody with no connection to the Kurds, not even knowing the Kurds.’

A spokesperson of the HDP was trying to persistently read the public statement. And then suddenly there were cries and police batons came down, scattering people away. Pepper spray was extensively used by the police. I found myself in an alleyway in Alsancak district. I walked to the place I had agreed to meet with my family. I saw the tears of my daughter and I smiled.

My daughter was very lucky... because her dad was not killed. 12-year-old Uğur Caymaz from Mardin had not learned yet what pain was when he was murdered [by state police] together with his father with 13 bullets, in 2004. The first pain he met was the pain of 13 bullets which killed him when he was going out of his home. We had returned home as a family, but Uğur was declared by the media as a terrorist.

My eyes were blooded because of the pepper spray and in order to hide them from my daughter I was making up and telling funny stories. That is why we Kurds are always cheerful, amiable and witty, because if this shell is damaged we wouldn’t be able to tell anything to anyone: poverty, want, tyranny and above all death. All told by the survivors, those who could live and escape from that hell. Because the dead cannot tell us anything... like those never-growing dead children.

[1] Police in riot gear are referred to as RoboCops in Turkey due to their excessive outer suits for protection.


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