Turkey's hubris rolls back
Kurds By Jillian
ISTANBUL - After over a
year without accountability for a Turkish aerial
bombing that killed 34 Kurdish men and boys,
Turkey has come under heavy criticism for what
many say is a widespread culture of impunity,
especially when it comes to the treatment of its
"It has been one year
and there are no important steps we can see.
Nobody has been arrested," said lawyer Tahir Elci,
head of the Diyarbakir Bar Association, which
represents over 800 lawyers working in Turkey's
largest Kurdish-majority city.
the prosecutors and other authorities protect the
perpetrators and there are many barriers before
the victims when they try to get justice," Elci
told IPS. "Even if perpetrators have
not been punished, it is
very important for relatives of victims to learn
On December 28, 2011, Turkish
air force jets bombed a group of Kurdish villagers
who were smuggling goods - sugar, fuel and
cigarettes - from Iraqi Kurdistan back over the
Turkish border along a well-known trading route.
Using drone footage of the area, Turkey
reportedly mistook the group for fighters from the
outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, which
is deemed a terrorist group by the United States
and the European Union, among others.
Seventeen children were among those killed
in the bombing, known as the Uludere or Roboski
massacre, after the name of the village (in
Turkish and Kurdish, respectively) where it took
The government set up a commission
of inquiry into the incident in January 2012, but
conclusions are yet to be released. The
prosecutor's office in Diyarbakir, which has been
tasked with leading a criminal investigation into
the killings, has neither completed its work nor
released any of its findings.
"The lack of
progress in an entire year on completing any
investigation of the Uludere (Roboski) incident is
very troubling because it is consistent with
(authorities') overall reluctance to account to
the public for the government's wrongdoing," said
Emma Sinclair-Webb, a researcher on Turkey at
Human Rights Watch, in a statement.
"Holding state authorities who killed
civilians accountable is crucial to upholding
democracy and the rule of law," she stressed.
The murder of three Kurdish human-rights
activists - including a co-founder of the PKK - in
Paris last week has also drawn international
attention to the ongoing struggle for Kurdish
Some analysts have said the
killings, which local police described as
professional executions, may have been meant to
derail a potential peace agreement, as Turkish
Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan re-started peace
talks with imprisoned PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan
in early January.
Umut Suvari is a board
member of the Diyarbakir city council, and founder
of the Youth and Change Association, which
provides training and empowerment activities for
He explained that a young
generation of Kurds is growing up more radical
than their parents, thanks to increasing political
pressure on Kurdish citizens.
groups estimate that the Turkish government has
arrested thousands of Kurdish citizens over the
past few years, including local mayors, academics,
and lawyers. Many have been rounded up for alleged
affiliations to the Union of Kurdistan
Communities, a civil society group that the
government views as the urban wing of the PKK.
In 2012, Turkey had jailed the most
journalists of any country worldwide. Most of
these journalists were Kurds imprisoned on
the New York-based Committee to Protect
Journalists, "Broadly worded anti-terror and penal
code statutes have allowed Turkish authorities to
conflate the coverage of banned groups and the
investigation of sensitive topics with outright
terrorism or other anti-state activity."
Kurdish-language instruction was also only
introduced to Turkish public schools as an
elective course earlier this year. Before that,
students were prohibited from speaking their
"People don't care anymore.
They are joining demonstrations knowing they are
going to be arrested," Suvari told IPS from his
office in Diyarbakir, referring to increasingly
disenfranchised Kurdish youth.
"But we are
teaching [youth] something different here. They
can see how they are powerful when they get
involved. When you give them a chance, they are
doing great things."
Kurdish activist Emrah Ucar was raised in
Diyarbakir, but never learned to speak his
family's native language. Despite this, he said
growing up in the city gave him a heightened
political consciousness at a young age.
"It would be different if I grew up in
Istanbul, but I grew up in Diyarbakir and
witnessed many things," Ucar told IPS. "We're not
afraid to lose anything because a lot of family
and friends are already in jail."
helped organize an event in Istanbul in late
December to commemorate the one-year anniversary
of the Roboski killings. Dozens of intellectuals
and artists participated, and the event was
broadcast live online, where it has since garnered
over 500,000 views.
"In order to
understand Roboski, [people] have to understand
history. Kurds have been killed regularly and
systematically since the establishment of the
[Turkish] Republic. You don't have to be a
guerilla in order to be killed by the Turkish
state. The Kurdish question did not start with the
PKK," he said.