Bingöl attack survivors speak out 19 years after incident

April 09, 2012, Monday/ 15:58:00/ TODAY'S ZAMAN

Seven privates who survived a massacre committed by the terrorist Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) in the southeastern province of Bingöl in 1993 in which 33 soldiers were killed came together for the first time 19 years after the incident for an interview with the Hürriyet daily in which they explained how the massacre happened and how they have continued their lives.

Thirty-three unarmed soldiers were executed by the PKK on the Bingöl-Elazığ highway in 1993 while traveling to join their military units. Since then, there has been speculation that the soldiers were killed to prevent a solution to Turkey's terrorism problem at a time when the government was involved in negotiations with the now-jailed leader of the terrorist PKK, Abdullah Öcalan, and preparing to offer amnesty to members of the organization. The attack led the government to shelve plans for a peaceful solution to the Kurdish question at the time.

The seven surviving soldiers spoke to Hürriyet about how the massacre took place. The soldiers say they were heading towards the Bingöl Gendarmerie Command headquarters in two minibuses and were stopped by a group of PKK terrorists who then killed 33 soldiers by opening fire nonstop for minutes; the total bullets used in the attack was reported to be 7,500. Some of them survived because their friends collapsed on them when the terrorists opened fire or because they fled the scene when the terrorists divided them into two groups before the execution.

Osman Partal, from the Black Sea province of Trabzon, survived the massacre by remaining under the dead bodies of his fellow soldiers. Erkan Omay, from Adana, saved his friends' lives, as he was able to get rid of the cable tied around their wrists and then told a PKK terrorist that his superiors had freed them. After surviving, Bümyamin Atlı, from Hatay province, asked his superiors for psychological treatment, but his request was denied.

After the seven soldiers had survived the incident, they were given only 10 days' leave by the army, which was for a “change of air.” What they request now is that the government find the army officers who were responsible for transporting them without an armed escort on the day of the massacre and for not providing them help after the deadly incident.

The trauma has made life difficult for the soldiers, and they still suffer from the difficult times they went through. They say the state has never provided any help since the incident, and they demand that the state at least officially declare them to be veterans.

The PKK, which is fighting for autonomy in Turkey's mainly Kurdish Southeast, was founded on Marxist ideology. Turkey has been conducting airstrikes on PKK camps in Iraq's northern mountains and inside Turkey since August of last year, following an increase in attacks on Turkish troops and civilians by the PKK, which has been fighting for autonomy for Turkey's largely Kurdish Southeast since 1984. The conflict has claimed tens of thousands of lives. The group is labeled a terrorist organization by the European Union and the United States, which has supplied Predator drones to assist Turkey.

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