Family of missing Kurdish journalist seeking justice 30 years on

Nazım Babaoğlu

The family of Nazım Babaoğlu, a journalist who went missing in 1994 while covering the news, is still seeking his whereabouts as well as accountability for the government officials they hold responsible, Voice of America Turkish edition reported on Wednesday.

A reporter for the pro-Kurdish Özgür Gündem newspaper, Babaoğlu disappeared in March 1994 in the southeastern province of Şanlıurfa while visiting the Siverek district to cover the news.

The family claims he was detained by soldiers and village guards and has launched multiple legal procedures to determine his whereabouts.

They ultimately lodged a complaint with the Constitutional Court which, in March 2023, ruled for non-pecuniary damages while rejecting claims of violation of the right to life on the grounds that the family had not exhausted legal remedies.

Although the family has filed an application with the European Court of Human Rights following the top court judgment, the case saw the expiration of the statute of limitations earlier this week, according to the report.

Cemal Babaoğlu, the journalist’s brother, told VOA that there was nothing unresolved about the case and that the authorities had disregarded eyewitness testimony about the alleged detention.

Babaoğlu expressed certainty that his brother was the victim of a political assassination.

“He wouldn’t have been assassinated if he wasn’t working for [Özgür] Gündem,” he said. “Seventeen of their reporters were murdered. Plus, their headquarters were bombed.”

“We’re not after the murderer. We want democracy and justice to prevail so that people can’t be murdered again,” he said, adding that they no longer hope to find him alive.

Since the 1980s, Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast has been the scene of a violent conflict between Turkish security forces and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), an armed separatist group designated by Turkey and much of the international community as a terrorist organization.

The conflict significantly deteriorated the human rights situation in the region, where reports of summary killings, enforced disappearances and torture were particularly frequent at times of military escalation. Hundreds of people disappeared in police custody in the 1980s and 1990s.

The Saturday Mothers, a group of activists seeking accountability for their loved ones who disappeared, have been holding weekly protest vigils in İstanbul since 1995 and are known as the country’s longest running civil protest movement.

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