Turkey's Kurdish minority unearths justice at last
(Page 2 of 2)
Based on secret testimony and gathered evidence, prosecutors say the plotters planned to bring down the Islamist-rooted Justice and Development Party (AKP) by sowing such chaos, through terror attacks and high-level assassinations, that the military would be forced to assert control of the state.Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
Reopening files of the missing
The head of the local bar association in Cizre, Nusirevan Elci, these days finds himself more and more dealing with families ready to look for their missing loved ones. Last December, Mr. Elci's office decided to start writing petitions to local prosecutors to reopen the files of the missing. Since then, some 120 families have come asking for help. The bar association has also pushed investigators to start excavations at several suspected mass graves, with more to come.
"We tried to do these investigations before, but the empire of fear was still very strong here," says Elci. "We had to force families to talk about who they lost. They were not only afraid, but they were also hopeless about getting any results.
"Ergenekon is a big opportunity for Turkey," he says. "The state needs to look at its past and come to terms with it."
Muharrem Erbey, a serious-looking lawyer who directs the Diyarbakir office of Turkey's Human Rights Association (IHD), is quick to point out that the excavations of suspected grave sites now taking place were not initiated by the state's prosecutors.
"They are happening because of our own hard work, by the pressure of the families that have been pushing for this," says Mr. Erbey, whose desk faces five large framed photographs of former IHD chiefs whose murders in the 1980s and '90s are still unsolved.
Not afraid to ask anymore
The home of Hasan Ergul, the farmer whose remains were recently identified, stands just outside Cizre, in the small village of Cukurca. This past April, following information given in a newspaper interview by a former member of a police unit believed to be behind many of the disappearances and unexplained killings in the southeast, Ergul's relatives started looking at old government files of unclaimed bodies found in the region.
In one of the files, they found pictures of a body that resembled the missing Hasan. They were then able to persuade a local court to have the body exhumed and sent for DNA testing.
"Before, we were scared to say anything," says Ata Ergul, sitting in the courtyard of his missing brother's house, shaded by a massive grapevine. "But because of [the Ergenekon] investigation, we saw other people asking about their missing relatives. We realized we were not alone.
"It's unbelievable that these people are in jail," Mr. Ergul continues, referring to some of the military and police figures now jailed as a result of the Ergenekon case. "These people were the gods of this region. We're not surprised by the names of those arrested, but that they're in jail is unbelievable. It's like a dream."
"We hope that all those who are responsible for the killings stand before a judge," he adds. "Our pain and sadness are very deep."•