Human rights defender Elçi remembered on 2nd anniversary of death across Turkey

Human rights defender Tahir Elçi, who was the former head of the Diyarbakır Bar Association, was commemorated on the second anniversary of his death on Tuesday, with several events organised across Turkey and in the southeastern province of Diyarbakır.

Elçi, who was also a vocal human rights activist, was killed in broad daylight on Nov. 28, 2015, in the central Sur district of the city while making a public statement to draw attention to the damage done to the district’s historic sites, including the area surrounding the famous Four-Legged Minaret. Despite two years passing since the incident, not a single suspect has been determined in connection to the murder.

According to a report by Hurriyet daily news on Tuesday, a ceremony was held near the Four-Legged Minaret with the participation of lawmakers, bar heads, writers, activists and non-governmental organization representatives, as well as Elçi’s relatives and Diyarbakır residents. The ceremony started with a moment of silence in memory of Elçi.

“The pain and anger in our hearts is growing,” current Diyarbakır Bar Association head Ahmet Özmen said at the ceremony, which was followed by the laying of carnations on the police barricades set up in front of the Four-Legged Minaret.

Elçi’s wife Türkan Elçi, pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) deputies Osman Baydemir, Meral Danış Beştaş and Nimetullah Erdoğmuş, main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) deputy Sezgin Tanrıkulu, and more than 20 bar heads were among those who attended the commemoration.

The perpetrator of the Elçi murder remains unknown and security forces have yet to conclude whether it was an assassination or whether he was killed in a clash between police and militants of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

The prosecutor of the murder case has been changed three times since the incident and the bullet that killed Elçi has yet to be found, making any ballistic match-up impossible. What’s more, 13 seconds of the police footage regarding the moment of Elçi’s death remains missing.

Before his killing, Elçi had received a number of death threats after saying on private broadcaster CNN Türk that he did not view the PKK as a terrorist organization.

After his death, Elçi’s wife Türkan Elçi quit her job as a teacher in Diyarbakır and moved to İstanbul to study law. She now aims to establish the Tahir Elçi Human Rights Foundation with her daughter Nazenin.

CHP deputy Tanrıkulu, meanwhile, penned a column in memory of Tahir Elçi, a close friend and colleague of 25 years, on online news portal Gazete Duvar. “We cannot describe how we miss him. We miss the moments when we were able to laugh despite all the pain around us,” Tanrıkulu wrote.

“Tahir was a lawyer who developed himself under extremely difficult circumstances. He was, of course, affected by his older relatives who were engaged in politics to defend rights. However, from the early years of his youth he worked to ensure justice, turning this into a lifestyle,” he added.

“Tahir couldn’t save himself from the traps that were set against him and neither could we save him. He was targeted just because he said, ‘People shouldn’t die, humanity shouldn’t be ruined and bloodshed needs to stop.’ They took him from us but they will never take Tahir’s naïve, pure smile from us. We will make that smile live on by carrying it in our minds and hearts forever,” Tanrıkulu wrote.

Elçi family’s lawyer Mahsuni Karaman, who is a member of the Investigation Commission of the Murder of the Tahir Elçi in the Diyarbakır Bar Association has closely followed the investigation of the Elçi’s murder, has stated in an interview to Gazete Duvar that Elçi was the target of the deep and dark forces, and added “Elçi is one of the building blocks of the human rights struggle in Turkey.”

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