[continuation of “The War Against the Kurds – The “Special Forces” (1)”]
A view of Güneyce, near Mesudiye (province of Ordu). Source: https://www.koylerim.com/mesudiye-guneyce-koyu-resimleri-18994g.htm
It is time to counter the pleas reported in the precedent article, with an example of the supposed-to-be "good relations" between the special forces and the population, during the 90s.
During the summer of 1997, with the fall of the Islamist government of Necmettin Erbakan, Turkey seemed to be awakening to a new future. Bülent Ecevit, the new centre-left deputy prime minister, sure as he was that the PKK forces had regressed to their 1985 level, regarded the ending of the state of exception as appropriate; in the press, the vali (governor) of Diyarbakır announced the reopening of many schools in the Southeast (Milliyet, August 23-24, 1997). But every day, the press published news betraying some vacillation among the leaders. On the one hand, the state of emergency effectively was lifted at the end of September in three provinces: Bingöl, Bitlis and Batman. But on the other hand, the authorities blocked the "Musa Anter Peace Train", a convoy of peace activists which would travel from Vienna to Diyarbakır, on the occasion of Peace Day on September 1.
Since May, the authorities were convinced that the rebellion was seeking contact with clandestine extreme-left bases near the Black Sea coast. Thus, during the summer, the provincial authorities in Tokat, Giresun and Ordu distributed hundreds of Kalashnikovs and recruited "village guards" (köy korucuları). Sales of pump-action shotguns increased, and so did the applications for weapon licences. Above all, special teams were dispatched to the Black Sea region (Cumhuriyet, September 23, 1997; Milliyet, September 4, 1997; Milliyet, October 6, 1997). All of this, as it was admitted by the authorities, to deal with twenty or some of 'terrorists' in the region.
Güneyce, a village located about forty miles South of Ordu, lies in this critical area. People live there from livestock farming: it is a “yayla”, one of these mountain pastures where city dwellers come to seek freshness in summer. Two boys living in Istanbul, Türkay Metin, 14, and his young uncle Cihat, 17, came to spend their summer vacations with their grandparents, just like every year. On August 23, 1997, along with their ten-year-old cousin Ümit, they lead the family herd to the stable. It is 8 p.m., and the night had just fallen. They walk along the road in the dark, with a lantern. They are very close to the village. And they are about to die before the eyes of several villagers (Cumhuriyet, August 23, 1998).
At the end of September, a reporter went to investigate in Güneyce, and described a village that seemed abandoned: people no longer went out of their home, children no longer attended school, and the inhabitants said they much more feared the special teams than the PKK (Hürriyet Daily News, September 26, 1997).
What happened is known through the testimony of Ümit, the only survivor, who consented to talk one month later. According to the boy, that evening, as they were walking along the road, they were approached by three vehicles of the special teams: "The first passed us. When the second car came along, I heard guns firing. I was walking on the other side of the road and I saw that my cousins were being shot at from the second car. I screamed but nobody heard me. [The policemen] stopped, got out of the car, picked up Türkay's and Cihat's bodies and drove off. But before, they shot at their own car and broke windows, so that it looked like they had been attacked. I get away by hiding in a well. Thereafter, [the villagers] picked up 94 cartridges but I saw that [the policemen] picked up a whole bag of cartridges themselves before they left”. The subsequent investigation counted no less than 141 cartridges.
Of course, the militiamen claimed that both boys had been killed by the PKK. They no doubt felt covered by the 1996 anti-terrorist law, of which the article 2 states: "During operations against terrorist organizations, the security forces may use their weapons directly and without hesitation" ... but this can only be done after the usual warning “surrender!” (teslim ol!). They were arrested but quickly released thanks to the civil servants' statute (Memurun muhakematı kanunu) which covers them when they commit violence in the exercise of their duties. It is noteworthy that at that time, there was no ban on night-time movement: a curfew was proclaimed, but only in the last days of August, after the event in Güneyce (Milliyet, August 29, 1997).
Despite the pressure, the family lodged a complaint. But, concerning civil servants, the responsibility for disciplinary proceedings remains to an administrative cell, and the procedure falls within the competence of the vali. The vali of Ordu was reluctant, but, as a result of the inquiry, belatedly opened by the cell, four of the policemen were charged; one of them had the rank of chief commissioner and, according to the investigators, he actually shot himself the children 42 times.
At first, they were administratively suspended and placed under arrest for one week, but they had then resumed their function. After one year, a trial began at the administrative court of Ordu, and, three years later, at the Criminal court of the same town.
In spite of the protection ensured by the vali, they were charged for culpable homicide, since one of the children had been hit with eight bullets and the other, ten. They were tried and convicted three times, but any time the judgment was overturned. In 2013, however, each of them was again sentenced to ten years in prison. I could not find out if they actually served their sentence.
This case is emblematic, as it took place in a region very peripheral to the conflict, and shows how widespread the violence was in a large part of Turkey. The members of the special teams felt protected and almighty; they had the trigger easy and fired without warning nor verification. The "incidents" and “blunders” of this kind happened by the hundreds since the war began.
But more than burrs or “collateral losses”, one can consider these deaths as deliberate murders, intended to spread a fear of the state among the (Kurdish) population. This phenomenon reached a climax during the autumn-winter 2015-2016 in the towns of the Kurdistan of Turkey.
When the PKK's leader Abdullah Öcalan was arrested in February 1999, the state and the press promptly charged him as a "child killer" (bebek katili). But the children of Güneyce were killed by men anted by the state, one of whom being a chief commissioner; these men were rather lightly punished. Türkay and Cihat joined the thousands of innocent victims of this conflict.
The special teams have gangrated Turkey. One could consider that by this means, the MHP party de facto has ruled a part of the country, relying also on gangs of 'village guards' deliberately chosen by the prefects among the members or sympathizers of the MHP, with the pretext of avoiding the weapons to be handed over to the rebellion. Yet, at this precise moment of the war, an official as involved in "counterterrorism" as the prefect of Ordu recognized the limits of the system, the double game of certain "village guards" and members of special teams, and their role in the resurgence of contraband and organized crime (Cumhuriyet, September 23- 26, 1997).
After the Susurluk scandal, which demonstrated the links between the police and security directorates, some tribes, the extreme rightist organizations and the mafia, who could still deny the existence of gangrene?
Erdogan Erisen, "Özel timcilere özel koruma," Cumhuriyet, August 23, 1998.
Fikret Bila, "Güneydogu'da yeni düzen", Milliyet, August 23, 1997;
Namık Durukan, "Kapalı okullar açılıyor", Milliyet, August 24, 1997.
Isık Kansu and Erdogan Erisen, 'Terör-Güvenlik önlemi sarmalında Ordu - Ordu'da halk hızla silahlanıyor', Cumhuriyet, September 23, 1997.
Hikmet Çetinkaya, “Karadeniz’de terör”, Cumhuriyet, September 25, 1997.
'PKK Panic in the Black Sea', Hürriyet Daily News, September 26, 1997
Özcan Ercan, 'Terörün hedefi Tokat', Milliyet, September 4, 1997; Milliyet, October 6, 1997