Kurdish soldier dies under suspicious circumstances after complaining to father of harassment

Osman Özçalımlı

Osman Özçalımlı, a gendarmerie private recently assigned to a prison in the western city of İzmir, died under suspicious circumstances on Saturday, a day after he called his father and said, “I’m in bad shape … they insult me, they call me a traitor.”

Speaking to the Yeni Yaşam newspaper his father, Ahmet Özçalımlı, said he told his son to be patient and to talk to his superiors first. He said he subsequently called the prison many times but couldn’t reach anyone. He decided to call the 156 gendarmerie hotline and talked to someone who said he didn’t know anything about the case and that there were no officers present because it was Eid al-Adha but that he would look into it.

According to Ahmet Özçalımlı, an NCO named Abdullah phoned him that night at around 10:00 p.m. “I told him, ‘My son says they insult me and call me a traitor.’ But the NCO said: ‘There’s no problem with your son. I have talked to him. No big deal. Don’t worry’.”

The next day Ahmet Özçalımlı was paid a visit by the district governor of Digor in the eastern city of Kars, where he and his family reside, the district commander of the gendarmerie force and the district’s police chief. They informed him that his son had suffered a heart attack and died. Özçalımlı told them he did not believe them. “Ten minutes later they said my son committed suicide. Ten minutes after that they said he fell from the second floor. … Prisons are full of cameras. Let them show me the footage. Did he jump himself, or was he pushed?”

In its report the state-run Anadolu news agency merely said that a private had died after “falling from a height.”

Özçalımlı said he saw lesions and bruises on his son’s body. “I will openly say it: They killed my son. This is what it is,” he added.

According to Bianet news, private Osman Özçalımlı’s family has filed an official complaint with the public prosecutor’s office.

Pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) deputy Züleyha Gülüm submitted a parliamentary question to Minister of Defense Hulusi Akar about the incident. Gülüm asked if there were any investigations into the death, whether an autopsy had been conducted on Osman Özçalımlı and, if not, why his family was told he had died of a heart attack.

Gülüm claimed that the suspicious deaths that take place in the armed forces mostly involve Kurdish and Alevi soldiers and asked Akar if his ministry had any measures against ethnic and religious discrimination.

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