Kurdish teenager fatally shot by soldiers in southeast Turkey

Özcan Erbaş, a 16-year-old boy living in a village in southeastern Turkey’s Hakkari province, died after being fatally shot by soldiers, the Mesopotamia News Agency (MA) reported.

According to his uncle Sabri Erbaş, who witnessed the incident, Erbaş was at a picnic with his family when the soldiers opened fire. Erbaş was shot in the back, and his family tried to reach him to take him to the hospital.

His uncle claimed the soldiers surrounded Erbaş and did not allow them to approach him. “We argued with the soldiers because they were blocking our way. They did not even help us,” he said. “I finally managed to get Özcan on my back and carry him away. We took him to Hakkari State Hospital for an autopsy.”

Sait Dede from the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) confirmed the incident from his Twitter account: “A Kurdish boy has been executed. Unfortunately, we know that no one will be penalized for it. However, we will never let this go and will hold those responsible accountable [for their actions].”

The Hakkari Governor’s Office issued a statement on its website saying the incident was an accident and that the soldiers had fired in the air to warn smugglers trying to enter the country.

Turkish security forces have been faced with similar allegations in the country’s Kurdish majority provinces.

Kemal Kurkut, a young student, was fatally shot by a police officer in 2017. The police claimed they thought he was a suicide bomber, although Kurkut was shirtless and not visibly carrying a bomb at the time.

An expert report in 2019 revealed that Kurkut was deliberately killed by the police officer during Nevruz celebrations in 2017.

Servet Turgut and Osman Şiban, two Kurdish villagers, were assaulted by a mob of more than 100 gendarmes before being forced into a helicopter, a report by independent deputy and investigative journalist Ahmet Şık revealed.

Şiban was discharged from the hospital on September 20; however, on September 30, 55-year-old Turgut, a father of seven, succumbed to his injuries in the Van Regional Teaching and Research Hospital’s intensive care unit.

In a press statement on October 1, Human Rights Watch underlined that in recent years there have been other instances of security forces arresting and ill-treating civilians after military casualties sustained in clashes between the military and the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), an armed secessionist group listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the European Union and the United States, in the country’s Southeast.

“Turkey has an entrenched culture of impunity when it comes to abuses by the security forces, no matter how serious,” said Hugh Williamson, Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “A failure to effectively investigate this latest case, as in so many other cases of serious abuse, would not just deny justice to the two men and their families, but give a green light to Turkey’s security forces to keep on abusing.”

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