Family of missing Kurdish woman starts sit-in at Tunceli courthouse

The family of Gülistan Doku, a young Kurdish woman who went missing on January 5, 2020, started a sit-in on Thursday in front a courthouse in the Turkish province of Tunceli, local media reported.

Police intervened in the protest and tried to prevent the family from sitting in front of the courthouse. Doku’s mother, Bedriye Doku, fainted during the confrontation with the police.

Doku, 21, went missing in Tunceli, where she was attending university. She was last seen arguing with her boyfriend, Zaynal Abarakov, in front of a bakery. Later, images of her sitting on a bridge over a reservoir emerged, prompting authorities to believe she had died by suicide and police to start searching the reservoir.

However, there was no sign of Doku’s body, and the family filed a complaint against Abarakov. According to the Tunceli Public Prosecutor’s Office there was no indication that someone had jumped into the reservoir at the time Doku was said to have been seen at the bridge. Doku’s family argued that this was a clear indication that their daughter had not committed suicide and that Abarakov could be responsible for her disappearance.

The Justice for Gülistan Committee, a civil society organization that is monitoring her case, claimed the police had failed to carry out the duties of their job. According to the committee, the testimonies of Doku’s friends were not taken for hours after they reported her missing.

One woman identified as Dilek said that after she spoke to law enforcement, the phrase “Gülistan said she would throw herself into the lake” was added to her testimony without her knowledge. Police records also indicate conflicting accounts about the day Doku disappeared.

The committee believes Abarakov’s stepfather Engin Y., who is also a policeman, is involved in a cover-up. Engin Y. was part of the investigation and was the first police officer to report that “an object had dropped into the lake” at the time Doku went missing. Engin Y.’s report informed the course of the investigation and the search of the lake.

Engin Y. is also currently under investigation for sharing confidential information and documents in the case with the press.

According to Doku’s sister, Aygül Doku, her sister and Abarakov had a disagreement the day before she disappeared. Abarakov tried to force Doku into a car, but she managed to get away. Doku’s family demand that authorities conduct a thorough investigation and determine what happened to the young woman.

Many women’s rights organizations such as the Women’s Committee and We Will Stop Femicide Platform expressed solidarity with Doku’s family and urged authorities to take her disappearance seriously.

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