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January 26, 2012, Thursday

Diyarbakır skulls are proof of our sorrows

Four human skulls were found on Wednesday during excavations being conducted in Diyarbakır’s historic İçkale neighborhood. Thus, the number of the skulls unearthed so far during the recent excavations in the region has risen to 23.

The place where these human bones were discovered had been used as the headquarters of JİTEM -- a clandestine gendarmerie intelligence unit established in the late ‘80s to counter ethnic separatism in the Southeast -- in the ‘90s. Some 36 families applied to the Prosecutor’s Office in Diyarbakır, demanding that a probe should be launched into the JİTEM officials who ordered the execution of the people whose bones are now being found, as well as other people who were in charge of these extra-judicial executions.

Before delving into the matter of Assyrians, let me give you some background on the JİTEM enigma. JİTEM, being the number of perpetrator of the unsolved murders in eastern and southeastern Turkey in the ‘90s, is an acronym for the Gendarmerie Intelligence and Counterterrorism Service. However, the General Staff continues to deny that it has ever existed. In 2010, both the General Staff and the Gendarmerie General Command (JGK) declared in the official documents they sent to the courts that JİTEM never existed within their official structure.

Mr. Devlet Bahçeli is not happy with the phrase “new Turkey.” He says, “There is nothing to exaggerate about this new Turkey.” Let me state outright: New Turkey is the Turkey where coup generals, extra-judicial networks and coup attempts can exist. Those who fail to understand new Turkey, you’ll see, will lose. For instance, by nominating for Parliament a retired general who is being tried as part of the case against Ergenekon -- a clandestine organization nested within the state that is trying to overthrow or manipulate the democratically elected government -- Mr. Bahçeli has become one of the losers. And he will continue to lose. I am making this point for a reason. Those who initially failed to understand the ruling Justice and Development Party’s (AK Party) determination to combat shady networks and promote democratization later continued to ignore popular opinion, visible in the 58 percent popular support in the referendum of Sept. 12, 2010. This error was also made by the General Staff headquarters. I have written numerous times before: “This error is basically an error made by the headquarters.”

If previous chiefs of general staff -- Yaşar Büyükanıt, İlker Başbuğ, and Işık Koşaner -- had been able to understand the new Turkey correctly, the trial of coup attempts would not have lasted so long. Many of the unsolved murders would be solved. However, they showed resistance to democratization. They chose not to provide courts with the evidential documents and they also tried to play down the importance of the authentic documents as “pieces of worthless paper.” Their attitudes did not go well for the solemnity of their positions as they were trying to discredit and undermine the case against Ergenekon. Despite the fact that many loaded Light Anti-tank Weapons (LAWs) had been unearthed during the excavations in Beykoz, the chief of General Staff showed an empty LAW to the reporters and asked, with scorn, “Who should bury this pipe and for what purpose?” What was more scandalous than this was what the former Chief of General Staff Gen. Işık Koşaner said in a voice recording posted on the Internet, which he did not disown. Please do not forget the following remarks:

“Unfortunately, we did act outside the law. We had to do so during some periods. We made it our habit and thought it would go on like that. We continued to do so and used the things we were not authorized to use. There are still such cases... They, too, will confront us.

You know, they are currently discussing the abolition of Article 35 and replacement with another. Replace it or not. We, as the armed forces, exist for this. This is our natural historic duty. No one can teach us anything about it.”

This statement is clear proof that despite all those developments, their mentality has not changed and they continue to do things the wrong way. This is so despite the confession that they made it their habit and thought it would go on like that.

This is what we say: It will not go on like that.

The General Staff should see this truth. We want our armed forces to help the ongoing trials and not to undermine their own institutional credibility. Undermining the credibility of the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) will benefit anyone, neither this country or this state. It is not that the TSK is on trial as a whole; only those TSK members who made it their habit to act outside the law and did this ruthlessly.

It was this as a result of this ruthlessness that the dead bodies were buried in the courtyard of a building used by JİTEM as its headquarters. Those skulls and bones do not belong to Assyrians. They belong to our people, as the heartrending proof of our sorrows.

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