Our paper has covered an exclusive news article on its front page by Mustafa Gürlek recently. The article revealed the confessions by former Dağlıca Battalion Commander Lt. Col. Onur Dirik and opened the eyes of the general public.
The Dağlıca 3rd Motorized Infantry Battalion was attacked by outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) terrorists on Oct. 21, 2007, an incident in which 12 soldiers were killed, 17 were wounded and eight were abducted. What Dirik told Zaman confirm the arguments that a certain group within the armed forces collaborated with the PKK in the Dağlıca raid.
Let me summarize Dirik’s statements to Zaman, who first said that what is known by the public is only the tip of the iceberg: “Twenty-eight days before the attack, we detected that the terrorists were extraordinarily active. We scheduled an operation four hours before the attack. However, this operation was cancelled first by higher ranking officers before it started. The combat ability of the battalion was undermined over time. And it was like there was an attempt to make the military weaker in case of an attack. In the clash that lasted for 33 hours, the target of the PKK was to completely destroy the battalion and take hostages, including me. Terrorists used about 18 anti-aircraft weapons. An unmanned aerial vehicle [UAV] hovered over us during the clash for four hours. The whole battalion saw it. However, back then, there were no UAVs in the inventory of the armed forces.”
Resolving the Dağlıca raid is as important and as crucial as the Ergenekon and Balyoz investigations and bringing the Hrant Dink and Muhsin Yazıcıoğlu assassinations to light. We all know that the coverage by the Taraf daily of this raid put the General Staff into a difficult position. The General Staff announced that it would resort to legal action in response to the Taraf coverage. The then-chief of General Staff,Yaşar Büyükanıt, said that “they should reveal the capital that supports them” in response to this remark, Taraf published a shocking document on June 25, 2008. The document, dated Oct. 12, 2007, rated top-priority, disclosed details on where the PKK raid would be held, its timing and the coordinates of the bases that would be targeted in the raid, based on an intelligence report by the Van Gendarmerie Army Corps Command. The document revealed a horrible truth: the General Staff, with all its relevant units, was aware that there would be a raid against the Dağlıca Battalion.
Why was the Dağlıca attack, dubbed by the PKK as a “wedding,” overlooked? First, I would like to recall something about the timing of the attack. The day the raid was carried out, a referendum on the election of the president by popular vote was held in Turkey. Secondly, four days before this attack, a motion authorizing the government that was under pressure to allow sending troops to northern Iraq was passed in Parliament.
The Dağlıca raid was overlooked because the government would be subjected to a process where the military would have control. Through declaration of martial law and state of emergency in the big cities, the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) would be effectively undermined because now we see that the coup attempts staged in 2003 were aborted. The party closure case against the AK Party did not lead to the desired outcome and the action plan against the government did not work out. Was it possible to make sure that the AK Party was conned into a risky adventure that would start the process of its elimination?
Let me recall something else: The government was aware of the plot over the Dağlıca raid. “Turkey was at crossroads after the Dağlıca raid. It would either wage war or seek peace through common sense. Maybe Dağlıca was staged to provoke a Turkish-Kurdish war. Some were eager to trigger such a war. But we relied on common sense and resolved the problem,” Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu told the Barzani delegation in Erbil in October 2009.
Now it is the judiciary’s turn. Measures should be taken to make sure that all responsible actors give statements. And 2nd Army Commander Hasan Iğsız should be questioned why he presented a plaque of achievement to Lt. Col. Dirik two weeks after the raid. During the ceremony, Iğsız said: “This battalion did its job, everybody should be relieved. You should be relieved.” He should explain what he meant by that. Perhaps, the then-chief of General Staff, Büyükanıt, has something to say.