EUTCC 2012 Conference papers: Mr Ferhat Encu

9th INTERNATIONAL EUTCC CONFERENCE, 5-6 December 2012

Conference paper: Mr Ferhat Encu, victim, Roboski, Turkey

The Roboski Massacre – Unanswered Questions

Honourable President, Honourable Members of Parliament,

On the night of December 28th 2011, civilians from Şırnak’s (Şirnex) Uludere (Qileban) town’s Gülyazı (Bejuh) and Ortasu (Roboski) villages, having crossed over for ‘Cross Border Trade’, were returning from the Iraq border when they were bombarded with missiles fired from Turkish Armed Forces’ fighter jets, which filled the earth with 34 lives and our houses with sorrow! I am here today to make a presentation about this incident…

First of all I would like to speak to you a little about Roboski and Bejuh.

The Roboski and Bejuh of today were formed following the razing down of villages bound to Şirnak’s Uludere (Qileban) town by the Turkish state in the 90s; the people who were forced into exile from those villages moved in with their relatives in these two settlements.

The fields surrounding our villages were filled with landmines by the Turkish state; until now 5 people who went into the fields to earn a livelihood have been killed and 20 people have been maimed… It is difficult to number the amount of animals that have died…

In our village there is no other way to earn a living than engage in what we call ‘cross-border trade’, ‘caravan’, ‘border’; what is termed as ‘smuggling’ by the state and those that think alike.

We do not call this ‘smuggling’ because we do not recognise and will never recognise that border; a border which was drawn up with a ruler on a table. We have been ‘smuggling’ since the time of our grandfathers. One part of our village is on this (Turkey) side, the other is on the Iraqi side, our relatives are the same also… Some of us have our brethren on the other side, some of us our fields… In fact there is no physical border to speak of there, there is only a stone, border stone number 15.

The ‘national’ lands which we live on, are the remains of an Empire that spread to three continents, an Empire from whose habitat societal traumas have overflowed and continue to do so. From the Armenian Genocide to the Dersim Massacre, from the 6-7 September 1952 lootings to military coups, from the Çorum and Maraş massacres and 28th February to the Zanqirt (Bilge) village and Roboski massacres, we live on a long and vast history of carnage. What has now taken its place in history as the ‘Roboski Massacre’ is a link in this chain of traumas.

On the night of 28th December 2011 our villagers, after having informed the local military forces and within their area of vision, crossed the border to conduct ‘border trade.’ A month before the date of the massacre the journey to and from the border was facilitated and made easier; ten days before the massacre military positions on the path to the border were emptied… Besides due to the fact that the area on the Iraq side is completely flat, the area that was bombed – according to the statement made by Murat Karayılan (KCK Executive Council President) – hadn’t been used by the PKK since 1991…

Having crossed the border without any problems our villagers encountered a catastrophic situation on the way back. Soldiers had blocked the three alternative routes and fired on and bombed them without any warning. Ubeydullah ENCU, the father of 13 year old Muhammed ENCU, who was killed that night, phoned the military station commander and informed him that his son was among a group in that area. The commander replied that he was aware of this and that the bombardment was only being done as a warning ‘to scare them.’ However the incident did not transpire like this and our children were bombarded by F-16 fighter jets.

Villagers who went to the scene of the incident following the bombardment say they encountered soldiers returning – upon command – from there and when they reached the area found corpses that were still burning and 13 wounded people. From the moment the massacre was carried out these villagers contacted all the local authorities and officials, however no one came to the carnage-ridden area and villagers were left no choice but to carry the corpses to the village on their backs. Medical crews from Şırnak were prevented by soldiers as they were on their way to the scene of the incident. We put the decapitated bodies with our bare hands into the saddles of the mules that had survived the bombing and tried to bring them back to the village. As was witnessed by the villagers who went to the scene of the massacre most of the wounded died because of blood loss and/or frostbite. 17 of the 34 who died were below the age of 18; just children. Anyone who visits the village just once can see the trauma this has created. All the villagers are now suffering from depression. This state of depression has been ongoing for almost a year now.

The Turkish Media disregarded this tragic incident for more than 12 hours! The few who did want to report Roboski were silenced from behind the scenes! When official statements began coming in news agencies resorted to euphemism and reported the incident as ‘The Incident on the Iraq Border.’ In the following days discussions did not go beyond; ‘were the dead smugglers or terrorists?’ and ‘is the incident an accident, due to neglect, or a trap?’

While the people in the West of Turkey were preparing for the upcoming new year’s celebrations which they celebrated till the early hours; we were spending sleepless sorrowful nights with the decimated corpses of our loved ones, whose faces would not go away from our eyes…

The first sign of how the state would approach the massacre came when the Prime Minister of the Turkish Republic Recep Tayyip Erdoğan thanked the Chief of Staff and commanding military officials ‘for their sensibility’ in this incident…

The officials who (according to eye-witness reports) refused the ambulances and did not send a helicopter on the night of the massacre, sent a crew to the scene of the massacre the next day and collected all the remains and evidence (pieces from human and mule corpses, metal cans etc.) and burnt it in a bonfire; in other words they got rid of evidence… The prosecutor who had said ‘there has been a mistake, I will not get anyone arrested’ straight after the massacre, then flew over the scene of the massacre in a helicopter and wrote in the official report that ‘nothing could be discerned:’

The approach has been so careless that the names and numbers of those who died in the massacre were entered incorrectly into the autopsy reports and therefore into the reports of Human Rights Organisations who sourced it. Organisations such as MAZLUMDER, Human Rights Organisation (IHD), Diyarbakır Bar, Public Services Workers’ Syndicate’s Confederation (KESK) and Justice Platform For Fraternity (KIAP) came to the village immediately after the massacre and compiled reports; all these organisations came to the joint conclusion that the incident was a ‘massacre.’

That night the state became bombs and rained on us from the heavens. Our children and relatives were shocked at what they had encountered. As if raining death on us had not sufficed, the state had abandoned us with our dead and then tried to prevent us from burying them side-by-side with threats!

Mourning lasts a long time in Kurdistan; and it lasts even longer when so many are killed together. Another tradition is that those who are responsible, whether on purpose or due to neglect, do not show their faces to the relatives of the dead in the first few days; because the relatives of the dead are filled with anger that could potentially explode at any moment. However this state, which has been administering us for almost a century and knows our traditions well, sent, despite all the warnings of the village elders, their governor to share his condolences two days after the massacre. With the anger that had built up inside them the youngsters of the village reacted against the district governor. Incidents that we do not condone ensued and the governor was attacked.

Following these incidents the relatives of those massacred were detained and arrested, some were later released. Warrants were put out for the arrest of many people in the village, nobody could leave, we could not take our sick to town, our village was turned into an open-prison. The fear of detainment and arrest continues even now… Those that were detained are being tried for ‘attempted murder.’ Although I did not in any way attack the governor I have been detained six times accused of the same thing because I am struggling to bring those responsible for the massacre to justice. As if this wasn’t enough I was openly threatened in front of cameras by the Şırnak City Gendarmerie Regiment Commander Osman Aslan who said; ‘Ferhat I know you, you are acting under the guidance of others, your time will come too.’ We do not know if that commander received thanks for these words, but it is evident that he was not investigated…

Since the first day of the massacre we have requested justice from the government, however all we have received are insults and suppression. Those who spoke to the media have been threatened with phone calls saying, ‘do not overstep the mark, shut your mouths, do not speak out about this.’ Villagers who went to file a lawsuit for the Roboski massacre were not asked anything about the massacre but were instead asked reflexive questions such; ‘why did you accept condolences collectively?’, ‘why did you cover the coffins with those pieces of cloth?’, ‘why is the BDP supporting you?..’

The earth that is covering our relatives hadn’t even set when news that we had been awarded ‘record compensation’ by the government began to spread. In fact we have not even touched that compensation…

The Interior Minister called those who had been killed ‘donkeys’, and ‘walk-ons for the terrorist group.’ The Prime Minister said that the villagers had not treaded on landmines, insinuating that they had a landmine map, however he was lying barefacedly to the whole of Turkey. There are many people in the village who have died or been wounded after stepping on a mine; this should be another incident of shame for the Prime Minister…

Because they didn’t return to work following the massacre the Regiment Commander Abdullah Paşa gathered the village-guards and undervaluing the massacre and reflecting the state’s disdain said; ‘the state is the perpetrator of this incident, let us say it was me, what is going to happen? What can you do against the state?’ Hasan Ürek, one of the survivors of the massacre was called in by the province governor and police chief after appearing on a TV show and speaking about the massacre and secured a job in return for his silence.

Servet Encü another survivor fled from Turkey and moved to the Kurdistan Regional Government of Iraq with his family due to suppression and the loss of belief that justice would be served. That a citizen of a state should lose all hope and leave his country and land should be a source of great shame for the people governing that state, but it wasn’t…

The state did not learn any lessons from all this and continued in the same manner. A short time after the massacre villagers grazing their animals on the Roboski plateau were fired at. They saved themselves by taking refuge behind rocks, four of their goats were wounded.

Despite all these problems we did not give up and continued our fight for justice. At every authority we visited we demanded that those responsible be unearthed and tried. We visited the Turkish Grand National Assembly on two occasions and met with officials from all the parties in parliament. On our first visit we met with Ayşenur Bahçekapılı, the AKP Group’s Deputy President and on November 27th 2012 with another AKP Group Deputy President Mahir Ünal, on both occasions we were insulted by these people. In our last visit I asked AKP MP Ünal if they had taken any concrete steps regarding the Roboski massacre and was told that they had given education grants to 40 students from Roboski, including myself. We did not request this from them, neither do we have knowledge of a grant that has been allocated to us. As families who have not touched a single penny of the compensation, it seemed funny to us that they would think we would accept a 100 TL grant…

In the EU development report which is famous in Turkey for being thrown in the dustbin by the AKP Constitution Commission President Burhan Kuzu it says this of the Roboski massacre; ‘there was no discussion of political responsibility…’, ‘calls made to officials for an effective, fast, transparent investigation into events such as the Uludere incident where civilians lost their lives were left unanswered…’, ‘the new strategy rhetoric of the government has not developed into a political solution to the Kurdish question…’ Another point of criticism in the report was the fact that ‘officials had prevented many NGOs from visiting the place of the incident…’ All these criticisms are legitimate. Furthermore a poet who wanted to visit the place of the massacre, and four young villagers who were guiding him were each handed a 1000 TL fine.

It was promised that the massacre would not be ‘lost in the corridors of Ankara’, however within the last year not one forward step has been taken…

Those who follow Turkish politics will know; if an incident wants to be forgotten (before those responsible are found) the incident will be referred to a commission or the judicial process, and then forgotten over time. This is what was also done with the Roboski massacre. A sub-commission was formed and deferred from one day to the next; the files from the prosecutor (mentioned above) followed the note from the Chief of Staff saying that ‘they could not share information.’ This tableaux of the state beaurocracy did not have any answers for the many questions and could not even point out the already unearthed perpetrators…

The sub-commission declared that it would release its report soon. But also added that the answers to these four questions we have been asking from day one would not be answered in the reports. The questions are: 1. Which agency and who watched and evaluated the images from the Heron (UAV)? 2. Which agency and who determined the target? 3. Who decided that these people were PKK militants? 4. Who gave the order to fire?

Since the day of the massacre we have requested and continue requesting that these questions be answered and those responsible for the massacre be revealed and tried. We have also stated that we will not touch the compensation until justice is served.

We believe that because the Roboski massacre took place on the Iraq side of the border it is a ‘cross border operation’ and therefore the government that is first and foremost responsible.

In conclusion; we are requesting that you send a committee to our village to compile a report about the massacre and ensuing process and become a party to this until justice is served and Roboski is defined as a ‘crime against humanity.’

As I said earlier, the Roboski Massacre is a link in the chain of societal traumas the people of Turkey have been subjected to. Justice will lighten the weight on the shoulders of the victims’ families and become a hope that these traumas will end.

I would like you to know that if justice is not served for Roboski the future will be one of darkness…

I thank you for listening to me with patience and hope that the Kurdish people and Kurdistan will never be the victim of such a massacre again; and that an environment of freedom and equality will be built so that the bloodshed of the past 30 years can cease and the annihilation and denial policies against the Kurds can end. With great affection and respect,

On behalf of the families of Roboski, Ferhat Encü

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