Skip to main content

What killing of Kurdish human rights lawyer means for Turkey

In turbulent Turkey, the voices of peace and coexistence speak out at the risk of violent retribution.
Thousands march during the funeral of Diyarbakir Bar Association President Tahir Elci in the Kurdish-dominated southeastern city of Diyarbakir, Turkey, November 29, 2015. REUTERS/Sertac Kayar - RTX1WE4F
Read in 

Sur is the 7,000-year-old historic district of the southeast Anatolian city of Diyarbakir. Its well-preserved Roman fortifications bear the marks of several civilizations that came to life by the banks of the Tigris River. Inside the historic walls are mazelike streets lined with ramshackle one-story houses painted in the brightest shades of pink, blue and yellow. On a typical day, the main artery is filled with vendors selling everything from vegetables and school supplies to CDs of Kurdish music. Until over a year ago, foreign tourists could be found scavenging around the numerous historical sites tucked away in the small alleyways.

Then came the advances of the Islamic State in bordering Iraq and Syria, such as its capture of Mosul in June 2014, scaring away potential visitors. Even worse has been the renewed violence between the Turkish state and the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) since July, engulfing the district in violence not seen since peace negotiations started in 2013. A few days ago, Sur was shocked by the assassination of Tahir Elci, prominent human rights lawyer and the head of Diyarbakir’s bar association.

Access the Middle East news and analysis you can trust

Join our community of Middle East readers to experience all of Al-Monitor, including 24/7 news, analyses, memos, reports and newsletters.


Only $100 per year.