FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

An Assassination in Turkey: the Killing of Tahir Elci

Istanbul, Turkey.

Turkey is once more in crisis. A leading pro-Kurdish lawyer has been killed. The streets fill once more with protestors.

Tahir Elci, Chairman of the Diyarbakir Bar Association and a respected human rights lawyer, was killed on Saturday in Diyarbakir, southeastern Turkey. “We don’t want weapons, clashes and military operations in the birthplace and home of many civilizations,” he said at a press conference before he was shot. Violence in Diyarbakir had damaged many historical places in the city and in the surrounding region. The climate of war between the State and the Kurdish groups had been exacerbated since the June elections. Hundreds of people had died, including children. Many majority Kurdish cities – Nusaybin, Cizre, Sur – are under curfew. Elci had called upon both sides for a ceasefire.

Instead, Elci fell to the guns. His death was videotaped. Who shot Elci? It is still not clear.

People in Turkey are used to seeing such images every decade. Turkey’s history is one of suppressed political murders. In 1989, Musa Anter, a Kurdish writer, poet and journalist, was killed by Abdulkadir Aygan, a surrendered PKK fighter and member of JITEM (Informal Structure of Genderma Intelligence Agency). During the 1990s, JITEM was accused of the murder of “unknown assailants” in Kurdistan. The Judiciary acquitted all JITEM suspects. Elic had been one of the lawyers in a JITEM case, which closed at the start of November.

Before the JITEM trial, on October 15, Elci has participated a discussion program on CNN-Turk and suggested, ‘PKK is not a terrorist organization.’ Five days later, on October 20, Elic was detained by the State for “terrorist propaganda.” That same day, the authorities released him. Elci faced seven and a half years in prison. Elci’s statement – that the PKK is not a terrorist organization – earned him the wrath of the nationalists. In an interview, Elci said of the backlash, “In social media I got hundreds of tweets which threated me with death. In some tweets they describe how they would kill me. They gave details. And also we got maybe tons of phone calls.”

Tahir Elci joins a list of prominent intellectuals assassinated in Turkey since the killing of Musa Anter in 1989.

In 2007, during the AKP’s first term in government, Hrant Dink was killed in Istanbul. Nationalists routinely attacked Dink, an Armenian journalist (editor-in-chief of Agos and columnist for BirGün), for his brave columns. He called for peace between the various nationalities that lived in Turkey: the Armenians, the Kurds and the Turks, among others. Frequently harassed by the authorities, Dink did not back down. He was hit by a nationalist hitman related to Turkish intelligence (MIT, the National Intelligence Agency). His assassination took place in the middle of the day, in the middle of a busy street. The judiciary has not moved the case along these past eight years.

What relates the Anter and Dink cases are the culpability between the state and the murderers. Every single case – and the lack of justice for the victims – encourages the next such case. This is also so with the major terrorist attacks in Turkey – Roboski (35 dead), Suruc (32 dead), Ankara (102 dead)….

After Tahir Elci’s killing, Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu said Elci might have been assassinated. “There might be a plan to assassinate Elci,” he said. There was a second scenario, suggested Davutoğlu: “that the police forces opened fire to protect people there after an attack by terrorists. Elci was caught in the crossfire.” Pro AKP media have started to release fabricated reports claiming that the PKK is responsible for the murder. The government immediately said that the investigation would be conducted in secret. The government immediately called for a media blackout. If the trends are normal, Elci’s case will also be blacked out. Mud has been thrown into the investigation. The finger will not point toward the real assailants.

Peace between the State and the Kurds recedes from the horizon. The peace talks between 2012 and 2014 were not based on the Constitution. AKP threatened the Kurdish parties: if they did not agree to this or that the process would be stopped. Violence against Kurdish leaders and intellectuals continued – murdered in interrogation rooms and in the streets.

JITEM is no longer active. In its place, a radical Islamic organization – Esadullah – has emerged in the current conflict. Their intimidation is routine. Walls are signed with their slogans – Esadullah team has arrived! It is chilling. It follows brutal nationalist jargon: You’ll See the Power of the Turk, and If You’re a Turk Be Proud, If Not Obey.” This has been the atmosphere in the Kurdish majority regions.

Elci literally means envoy. Tahir Elci had been named the Peace Envoy by the opposition media. He devoted his life to peace and to human rights. His death decreases the chance of peace. The State knows that it is untouchable. Kurds are silent. They will not remain patient.

HDP’s Selahattin Demirtas, who was himself caught in a attempted assassination last week, gave a sad speech during Elci’s funeral. “What killed Tahrir was not the state,” he said, “but statelessness.” Demirtas, for the first time in a great long while, has mentioned the need for a Kurdish state. This mental opening between the Kurds and the Turkish State might portend a bloodier era in the near future.

More articles by:

Omur Sahin Keyif is a journalist with BirGun.

Weekend Edition
April 20, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
Ruling Class Operatives Say the Darndest Things: On Devils Known and Not
Conn Hallinan
The Great Game Comes to Syria
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Mother of War
Andrew Levine
“How Come?” Questions
Doug Noble
A Tale of Two Atrocities: Douma and Gaza
Kenneth Surin
The Blight of Ukania
Howard Lisnoff
How James Comey Became the Strange New Hero of the Liberals
William Blum
Anti-Empire Report: Unseen Persons
Lawrence Davidson
Missiles Over Damascus
Patrick Cockburn
The Plight of the Yazidi of Afrin
Pete Dolack
Fooled again? Trump Trade Policy Elevates Corporate Power
Stan Cox
For Climate Mobilization, Look to 1960s Vietnam Before Turning to 1940s America
William Hawes
Global Weirding
Dan Glazebrook
World War is Still in the Cards
Nick Pemberton
In Defense of Cardi B: Beyond Bourgeois PC Culture
Ishmael Reed
Hollywood’s Last Days?
Peter Certo
There Was Nothing Humanitarian About Our Strikes on Syria
Dean Baker
China’s “Currency Devaluation Game”
Ann Garrison
Why Don’t We All Vote to Commit International Crimes?
LEJ Rachell
The Baddest Black Power Artist You Never Heard Of
Lawrence Ware
All Hell Broke Out in Oklahoma
Franklin Lamb
Tehran’s Syria: Lebanon Colonization Project is Collapsing
Donny Swanson
Janus v. AFSCME: What’s It All About?
Will Podmore
Brexit and the Windrush Britons
Brian Saady
Boehner’s Marijuana Lobbying is Symptomatic of Special-Interest Problem
Julian Vigo
Google’s Delisting and Censorship of Information
Patrick Walker
Political Dynamite: Poor People’s Campaign and the Movement for a People’s Party
Fred Gardner
Medical Board to MDs: Emphasize Dangers of Marijuana
Rob Seimetz
We Must Stand In Solidarity With Eric Reid
Missy Comley Beattie
Remembering Barbara Bush
Wim Laven
Teaching Peace in a Time of Hate
Thomas Knapp
Freedom is Winning in the Encryption Arms Race
Mir Alikhan
There Won’t be Peace in Afghanistan Until There’s Peace in Kashmir
Robert Koehler
Playing War in Syria
Tamara Pearson
US Shootings: Gun Industry Killing More People Overseas
John Feffer
Trump’s Trade War is About Trump Not China
Morris Pearl
Why the Census Shouldn’t Ask About Citizenship
Ralph Nader
Bill Curry on the Move against Public Corruption
Josh Hoxie
Five Tax Myths Debunked
Leslie Mullin
Democratic Space in Adverse Times: Milestone at Haiti’s University of the Aristide Foundation
Louis Proyect
Syria and Neo-McCarthyism
Dean Baker
Finance 202 Meets Economics 101
Abel Cohen
Forget Gun Control, Try Bullet Control
Robert Fantina
“Damascus Time:” An Iranian Movie
David Yearsley
Bach and Taxes
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail