Military barracks located in the eastern province of Van that used to bear the name of a general who was convicted of killing 33 Kurdish villagers more than half a century ago is no longer named after the controversial general with officials finally removing the barracks' old name plate.
The barracks are located in Van's Özalp district, where 33 Kurds were executed by firing squad in 1943 upon orders from Gen. Mustafa Muğlalı. The general was eventually convicted of the murders and later died in prison, but in 2004 the military barracks in the district where he killed his victims were named after him.
The fact that a sign bearing the name of the general still adorned the entrance of the military barracks in Van drew widespread criticism from the public. Many, including Republican People's Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, have called for a change of name for some time. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan issued a directive to then-Chief of General Staff Gen. Işık Koşaner to rename the military barracks in March, but his directive was only just carried out on Wednesday.
The incident dates back to July 1943, when a group from the Kurdish Milan tribe, a community that resides in Iran, crossed the Turkish border and smuggled some livestock out of the region. The smugglers were not captured during the ensuing gendarmerie operation, but gendarmes arrested 40 people residing in Özalp who were related to the Milan family that had smuggled the livestock out.
Following court proceedings, the court released 35 suspects but put five under arrest on charges of alleged involvement in livestock theft. Despite the court's order for their release, 33 villagers, including a woman and an 11-year-old child, were executed by firing squad.
At the end of the following investigation, Muğlalı was given the death penalty on March 2, 1950, which was legal at the time. However, the Military Supreme Court of Appeals overruled the initial court decision and the sentence was commuted to 20 years in prison. He died of a heart attack on Dec. 11, 1951 at the age of 71. Turkish poet Ahmed Arif's “33 Bullets” is an elegy to the victims of the tragedy.