In December 2009 during a demonstration in Amed (Diyarbakır), a 23-year-old student by the name of Aydın Erdem was fatally shot in the back. The single bullet came from an armed civil police officer who fired at close range. Erdem was a third-year mathematics student at Dicle University who came from Ömerli (Mardin province).
Tensions were high in Turkey at that time for a couple reasons. One, Abdullah Öcalan had just been moved to a new maximum-security prison and demonstrations erupted around the country in protest of the conditions at the prison. The other event was the constitutional court’s imminent announcement of the closure of the DTP.
But this story is not about what happened back in December. This is about what happened after Aydın Erdem’s family laid him to rest in Çınaraltı, a village just northeast of Mardin and honoured his memory with a beautiful headstone.
Last month, the Ömerli Prosecutor’s Office in Mardin launched a case against Aydın Erdem’s parents because of that headstone. Why? The inscription on the headstone is in Kurdish. Part of the inscription, which is from the Koran, is a blessing for a martyr’s soul.
This, says the prosecutor’s office, is ‘praising a crime and a criminal’ and is punishable by up to two years in prison. ‘Praising a crime and a criminal’ is from Article 215 of the Turkish Penal Code, which falls under Chapter 3: Offences against Society.
Erdem’s father, Mahmut, is livid over the case. ‘My son was not killed in the mountains. He was shot in the street with a pen and notebook in his hands. His right to life was violated. He is a martyr in my heart. Those who killed my son should be found first.’
It’s certainly not Mahmut Erdem and his wife who should be on trial. After all, they did not praise the officer who shot their 23-year-old son. Please, leave these grieving parents alone. Haven’t they suffered enough?