Tomorrow (08 March) is International Women’s Day. Here is an article I translated from the original, Femmes kurdes: “Nous voulons nos disparus, morts ou vivants”, from today’s Le Temps from Switzerland, which looks at a Kurdish women across Turkey demanding answers to the disappearnces of their loved ones. The links throughout the translation were not part of the original. I have added them for reference and context.
Kurdish women: We want our disappeared, dead or alive
Reminiscent of the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo in Argentina, families gather together every Saturday from Istanbul to Diyarbakir to demand an end to impunity and for the truth regarding their disappearances.
On this Saturday in February, Hanim Tosun defies the rain and the cold to demonstrate in front of the Lycée de Galatasaray in Istanbul. This mother of five children, originally from a Kurdish village in eastern Turkey, holds a photograph of her husband, Fehmi Tosun, who disappeared from the center of Istanbul on 19 October 1995. “With my children, I witnessed his abduction by the police. They forced him into their car. We haven’t seen him since.”
“We want to know”
Every Saturday for a month, about fifty mothers, children, siblings, like Hanim Tosun, have come to request that some light be shed on the disappearance of their relatives. According to the Association of Human Rights (AHR), more than 3,000 people disappeared in the 1990s, the height of the “dirty war” that led the Turkish state against activists and supporters of the Workers’ Party of Kurdistan (PKK).
Fehmi Tosun was also a supporter of the PKK. Before disappearing, the father of the family spent three and a half years in prison for supporting a terrorist organisation. “I have no hope that my husband is still alive,” says his wife. “But we, the families, we’ll never give up. We want to know where the bodies are.” This woman of 42 years is a regular at these gatherings. Between 1995 and 1999 she didn’t miss a one. “Since the beginning of these actions, thirteen years have passed. Meeting again in the same location, with the same pictures, is very difficult.”
The Association of Human Rights has revived these weekly gatherings since the appearance of new evidence. As part of an investigation into the dismantling of an ultranationalist network, several persons suspected of having carried out actions against the Kurds in the 1990s, have been arrested. Among them, Veli Küçük, the head of JITEM, the intelligence service of the gendarmerie, in charge of counter-offensive against the PKK. And also Levent Ersöz, a general stationed at the Iraqi border at the time of the disappearance of two politicians Kurdish. Also in late January, Abdulkadir Aygan, a former PKK member and now JITEM informant, revealed in the newspaper Taraf, to having participated in the deaths of thirty people, in custody. “I would say that 80% of unsolved murders in the region were carried out by JITEM,” he says.
Bodies soaked in acid
This kind of confession has revived the hopes of families to finally get information and to see those responsible punished. At Silopi on the Iraqi border, they have even begun looking into wells belonging to a public company, into which acid-soaked bodies were thrown.
However, the hopes of families and activists remain tenuous. How far will this investigation go, asks Leman Yurtsever, who lamented the fact that the main suspects are released one after the other. “We want our missing persons, dead or alive, but unfortunately our battle is still long.”