Turkish Government Tries to Pass off Blame for Massacre

Article Summary
The December 29 massacre in Uludere, Turkey, has drawn harsh criticism of the Turksh government. The reactions of Turkish lawmakers and of a pro-government newspaper columnist illuminate the extent to which the government is isolating itself with its misguided policies, writes Muhammad Noureddine.

Reactions to the “Uludere” massacre — in which 35 young Kurdish civilians were killed in airstrikes by Turkish jets onDecember 29 — are still emerging. The issue has entered a new stage: Yemen’s attorney general has requested all live video footage of the incident from the general staff. Kurdish leaders feel that this step might be an attempt to wrap the case up quickly and acquit the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government of responsibility, as it, and not the army, commands military operations.

Kemal Kilicdaroglu, leader of the (center left) Republican People's Party (CHP), visited the area of Uludere where the massacre took place. He visited homes of the victims’ families and offered his condolences in the first high-level contact between the Kurds and the government’s main opposition party. The parents of the deceased welcomed Kilicdaroglu, who was also received by Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) lawmaker Hasip Kaplan.

In contrast, Uludere District Governor Naif Yavuz was stoned and beaten with sticks by angry residents when he arrived to console the families of the Kurdish victims. He narrowly survived and was rushed to the hospital for treatment of the injuries sustained in the attack.

In this context, Kurdish lawmaker Ahmed Turk stressed the urgency of the transition that Turkey is currently going through, and stated that Interior Minister Idris Naim Sahin does not even deserve to be mayor, let alone minister. However, Turk refused to hold Sahin solely responsible for the incident, saying that all parties are partners in the massacre and equally responsible for inciting the Kurds.

Turk described the incident that took place in Uludere as a “massacre.” He said, “It's a great tragedy for a mother not to be able to find her son’s body, which had been torn to pieces, and for her to only be able to recognize [her son’s] body parts through a shoe left here or there,” Turk added that “Turkey is reverting to...1993, a dangerous game which is plunging the people in despair.”

Turk called the investigation of the massacre a “game by the authority” with aims to quell outrage and reassure the people that the government did not stand by idly. He said that “this investigation will yield no results whatsoever, as its main goal is to vindicate the state rather than expose the perpetrators.”

Press commentaries about the Uludere massacre include an interesting article by Ali Akel at the pro-AKP newspaper Yeni Safak. In his article, titled “Yes, mistakes have been made, but they have been going on for a century,” Akel severely criticizes the government's policy toward the Kurds. He says that “all official statements were disastrous, and the general staff statement should perhaps not have been issued.”

According to Akel, AKP Vice President Huseyin Celik first said that if a mistake had been made, certain measures were necessary. Akel said that Celik’s statements were followed by that of the general staff, and only after that were Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and President Abdullah Gul able to state their points of view.

Akel writes: “They are talking about mistakes. Yes, there have been mistakes. But these [were not made] yesterday or the day before yesterday, but have been going on for close to a century now.” He adds that “it is a big and deadly mistake, which has been shedding the blood of young Kurds and Turks. It all started with denial and rejection. All who have lived in this land were Turkish. They were forced to be Turkish. [They were to] either be Turkish or not be [anything] at all. The other component of the system that is founded on denial and rejection has been assimilation.”

Akel adds that some officeholders have suggested that a few roads and schools be opened for the Kurds. The official attitude is that “if we cannot solve the problems with the Kurds through ignorance, how can we solve them through literacy?”

Akel says that “all forms of Kurdish disobedience in reaction to the regime’s mistakes used to be faced by harassment and punishment. More disobedience was met with greater harassment.” He asked: “How many Kurdish villages have been burned down, and how many young Kurds have been killed. Doesn’t Erdogan see the mistakes of his regime? Why are there so many young Kurds in the mountains (youths who have resorted to arms and joined the Kurdistan Workers' Party [PKK] in the mountains).  How come these barely 16-year-old youths only know the roads of mountains? The PKK has existed for 30 years, and the number of its fighters is not shrinking. So are Erdogan, Gul and other officials blind and deaf toward what is being aired on TV? Why don’t you see the suffering that this regime is causing? These people’s identities were meant to have been denied, ignored and integrated. But [the government] has rejected this all along, and continues to do so. All rebellions — the Sheikh Said [Rebellion], the Dersim [massacre] and the Agri [revolution] — were a result of [actions] taken by the regime. The regime has accused the Kurds of terrorism, secessionism and collusion with external forces. Not only did the regime practice terrorism against them, but it also stripped them of their humanity and turned them into animals.”

Akel continues, “Huseyin Celik has said that if mistakes have been made, certain actions are necessary. No, Celik. Mistakes were made for a whole century. Moreover, Erdogan has said, ‘the state does not intentionally bomb its own people. This was possible in the past, but in our time, the state does not bomb its people.’ But the regime you are currently heading, and which you promised would change, has not changed an iota and is still killing thousands of young people.”

Akel says that “the AKP has made a big mistake by following a deviant strategy, which is to first teach the PKK a lesson, then weaken it and initiate steps to open up to it later.” He explains that “Erdogan was the prime minister who gave the Kurds hope as no head of government had done before. But he never took on his responsibilities, and the Kurds were more disappointed by him than by any previous head of the government. The Kurds gave Erdogan their trust and embraced him unlike any other prime minister. But the Erdogan who embraced the Arab streets could not embrace the Kurdish streets.”

Akel concludes his exceptional article by saying that “in a free country, if 35 youths are killed in an air raid, the person responsible would definitely not remain in his post one day, or even one hour longer. Turkey will one day be a free country.”

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