Victims’ families outraged by Turkish gov’t failure to prevent killings in northern Iraq

The coffins of three Turkish military personnel killed in action are carried during funeral prays at the Ahmet Hamdi Akseki Mosque in Ankara on February 12, 2021. - The three soldiers Lt. Burak Coskun, Lt. Ertug Guler and Sgt. First Class Harun Turhan were killed during clashes with Kurdish militants in northern Iraq's Gara region as part of the Eagle Claw 2 operation by the Turkish military against the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK). (Photo by Adem ALTAN / AFP)

The families of Turks who were killed in the Gara region of Iraqi Kurdistan on Sunday as a result of an operation carried out by Turkish security forces against the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) have expressed sadness and outrage at the Turkish government’s failure to ensure the safe return of their kidnapped children, Turkish Minute reported, citing the Sözcü daily.

Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) government on Sunday accused militants of the PKK, listed as a terrorist group by Turkey, the US and the EU, of killing 13 Turkish nationals — mainly members of the security forces — whom they had held captive in northern Iraq.

The bodies of the 13 hostages were reportedly discovered in a cave in the Gara region of northern Iraq, where Ankara launched an operation against the PKK on Feb. 10.

The hostages, some of them kidnapped by the PKK as early as 2015, had found little or no coverage in the Turkish media, prompting widespread criticism on social media as to why the Turkish government had not tried to rescue the hostages earlier.

“They stalled us. I’m full [emotionally]. Politics should’ve solved this issue. It was the politicians, not me, who should’ve found a solution to this. I’m not the government. The politicians rule the government,” Gürsel Özbey, father of sergeant Semih Özbey — one of the 13 who were killed in Gara – told Sözcü on Tuesday.

The father said Özbey was abducted by PKK militants on the Dersim-Erzincan highway while he was returning home from the Black Sea province of Rize on Sept. 18, 2015.

“If what’s being said is true, the children [13 hostages] were tortured [by the PKK militants] every day. What kind of justice is this? What kind of world is this? This is where words fail. This is inhuman,” the father added.

He went on to say that nobody paid attention to him despite his many attempts to talk to politicians, including ones from the ruling AKP, who chose, instead, to stall him.

Another parent who spoke to Sözcü was Ayşe Güler, the mother of deceased specialist sergeant Mevlüt Kahveci who talked to President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan over the phone when he called her during an AKP rally on Monday, a move that has attracted widespread criticism.

Erdoğan reportedly told Güler that she was “honored by the martyrdom of [her] son,” while she was unable to speak, sobbing over the phone. The president drew criticism for going on to propagandize his AKP government following the call, which was televised live by mainly pro-government TV channels.

When asked about the phone call, the grieving mother said: “I didn’t know he [Erdoğan] was calling me during a rally. I was at the cemetery. He called me out of the blue and we talked on the phone. He offered condolences, and I told him to take revenge for my son.”

The woman said Kahveci was abducted on the Hakkari-Çukurca highway on Sept. 21, 2016.

She also confirmed that a letter circulating on social media in her son’s name which stated that the AKP was responsible for leaving the hostages in the hands of PKK militants was actually written by him.

“Mother, the [PKK] organization says that nobody has asked them to return us so far. They say that if the president and his AKP were to demand it, they couldn’t not respond and would let us go,” Kahveci said in the letter.

“Why have they still not saved us? Why don’t they do anything for us? Which country’s soldier am I? Who am I serving? Why can’t they reason with the organization to save their own soldiers and police? What is our fault? Is this our reward [for serving the government]?” he asked.

According to a statement released by the Malatya Governor’s Office on Monday, among the hostages executed were air special sergeant Hüseyin Sarı, sergeant Semih Özbey, special gendarme sergeant Ümit Gıcır, special sergeant Mevlüt Kahveci, private Sedat Sorgun, private Süleyman Sungur, tank crewman Adil Kabaklı, tank crewman Müslüm Altıntaş, police officer Sedat Yabalak, police officer Vedat Kaya and private citizens Aydın Köse and Muhammet Salih Kanca.

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