On Dec. 28, 2014, tens of thousands gathered in Roboski, a tiny village in the Şırnak province of southeast Turkey near the Iraqi border, to commemorate the killing of 34 Kurdish civilians by a Turkish military airstrike three years ago. Acting on information captured from drones, mistaking the group for armed members of the Kurdish Workers Party (PKK), two Turkish jets had bombed a group of civilians who were crossing the border into Turkey. Nineteen of the 34 casualties were children.
Addressing the massive crowd at the commemoration ceremony in Roboski, Lami Özgen, president of the Confederation of Public Workers’ Unions (KESK), said:
“Our pain is as new as the first day of massacre. We have never forgotten the Roboski Massacre. We salute the struggle and resistance of Roboski families. We are Roboski, Roboski is us.”
Another speaker at the event, People’s Democratic Party (HDP) deputy Ertuğrul Kürkçü, said:
“The murderers of our youth are Necdet Özel, Chief of General Staff of the Turkish Armed Forces and the Prime Minister at the time, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. There is no need to search anywhere else. … They have not hesitated to order this massacre. … Sooner or later, we will have the power to hold these murderers accountable.”
All the speakers and the thousands in the commemoration ceremony vowed to continue the struggle for justice.
Roboski investigations—a big coverup
After the massacre, here is what the PM of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) had to say:
“The planes bombarded the villagers because they thought they were terrorists. That was a terror zone; compensation was paid to the relatives of the victims. It is not necessary to make a big deal out of this. The terror organization [Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK)] is exploiting this incident.”
In January 2012, a special parliamentary investigation commission was formed. Over a year later in March 2013, the commission came up with a report that was nothing more than an official cover-up concluding that the massacre was a result of lack of coordination between military officials and civilian authorities, without deliberate intent.
Commenting on the report, Levent Gök, a member of the commission from the opposition party, CHP, said:
“When I read the draft, I felt ashamed in the name of humanity. It is a black stain on the historic record of the commission. … It does not point out anybody as responsible; sufficing with a flaw of coordination between military and civilian authorities. There is nothing there about the military staff; it is as if an army from the outer space did all that.”
In May 2012, the prime minister of the time, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, desperately tried to bury the incident by associating anyone who is demanding justice with terrorism:
“Whoever is still bringing up the Uludere (Roboski) issue is actually related to terrorist organizations.”
In June 2013, after an investigation of 18 months, like the parliamentary commission, the state prosecution also concluded that there was no deliberate intent by the military, only negligence. The case was transferred to the military prosecution. In January 2014, the military prosecution followed suit, deciding not to press any charges against the military staff, citing that no investigation was necessary as “the military staff made a major mistake but performed their duties within the given orders.”
Speaking at last year’s commemoration ceremony, the co-chair of the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) which later became the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), the main Kurdish opposition party, Demirtaş implicated that it could have been Erdoğan, the prime minister at that time, who gave the order for the military operation:
“Let me now tell you the information we have. That night, the General Staff received a piece of intelligence about a convoy at the border. They are told that [senior PKK commander] Bahoz Erdal is in the convoy but that civilians, too, may be in it. This secret information is withheld from officials here in Şırnak and Uludere. The prime minister [Erdoğan] is informed on the phone. They tell him it will be a risky operation … that they will be striking Bahoz Erdal but civilians may be also involved. It is the prime minister who gives them the go-ahead, he orders them to strike. The warplanes take off on his order to take our 34 kids away from us. Later, they realize that all in the convoy were Roboski villagers. Ever since, they have been trying to cover this case up.”
In January 2014, it was also reported that the chief of the general staff, Necdet Özel, had personally authorized the operation about 90 minutes before the Turkish Air force initiated the strike.
Report: In past 5 years, 110 people killed on Turkey’s southeast border
According to a report released by the Human Rights Association of Turkey (İHD), at least 110 people were reportedly shot dead and 130 others wounded on Turkey’s southeastern border between 2009 and 2014 by the Turkish military or armed gangs. Speaking at a press conference held on Dec. 26 before the third anniversary of the Roboski massacre, Raci Bilici, vice president of İHD said:
“The perpetrators of this massacre have yet to be found after three years. The state and the government have been hiding the perpetrators of this massacre like a mystery.”
He added that the relatives of the massacred, their friends and the peoples of Turkey have not forgotten this massacre, and that the massacre’s pain would never be alleviated until the perpetrators of this crime are prosecuted.
The struggle for justice will continue
The AKP government has done everything possible in the last three years to cover up the Roboski massacre. After all the lengthy showpiece investigations, reports and legal proceedings, according to Turkish courts, nobody is responsible for the slaughter of 39 civilians. While AKP and its courts may think that they have closed the Roboski case and will get away with murder, in the conscience of the people of Turkey, this case is still open and their struggle for justice will continue until all those responsible from this massacre are brought to justice.
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