Parliamentary Human Rights Investigation Commission head Ayhan Sefer Üstün on Monday said the commission is preparing to work on a plan of
action to shed light on the killing of 34 civilians in a military airstrike in December.
Turkish warplanes mistakenly killed 34 villagers in an operation that targeted Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) terrorists in Iraq in late December. The government later acknowledged that the victims were smugglers, not terrorists. The military issued a statement saying the warplanes had targeted the group based on intelligence that suggested a group of armed terrorists would be heading towards the Turkish border to stage attacks on the military.
Members of the commission were in Şırnak on Sunday and Monday to meet with the families of the victims, survivors of the attack and state authorities in the province, as part of their efforts to cast light on the incident.
“We are in the region to listen to everyone who has a word on the issue. We are here to share the pain of those who have suffered. A sub-commission has been established in order to contribute to the efforts to shed light on the incident. Following a thorough investigation, we will determine our plan of action with the members of the commission,” Üstün told Today’s Zaman. He said the goal of the commission is to help serve justice, adding that, as Turkey becomes more transparent every day, no incident remains unsolved.
“Turkey is now being ruled in the daylight. Our goal is to shed light on the incident. Separate investigations of the incident are already being carried out by the General Staff, the Interior Ministry, the Uludere Prosecutor’s Office and the Diyarbakır Specially Authorized Prosecutor’s Office. Our Parliament also wants to contribute to the efforts to resolve the incident,” he said. Üstün also noted that, at a time when unsolved incidents from 50 years ago are brought to light, he has no doubt that the Uludere incident will also be resolved.
The head of the sub-commission investigating the Uludere incident, İhsan Şener, said the commission listens to everyone, be they individuals or nongovernmental organizations, who have something to say about the incident. “Everyone we have spoken with demands that those who acted with negligence or fault be revealed and appear before a court. We are here to resolve this,” he said.
New eyewitnesses appear in Uludere
Thanks to the efforts of the sub-commission, two more people who survived the Uludere bombings have been contacted. These individuals, Davut and Hacı Encü, who fled to Iraq after the incident, have returned to their villages. Davut told commission members that he and his cousin were walking 50 meters behind the second group of smugglers at the time of the bombing. They fell in water as a result of the bombing and were later saved by villagers.
Regarding the questions directed to them by the commission members, he said: “Commission members asked us questions such as when we went there, whether we came across any other people during our travels, whether Herons were above us, whether we panicked during the bombing and if we had any mobile phones or lights. We told them we never thought that we would be hit, so we had no weapons or ammunition with us.”
Davut also demanded that authorities explain the incident, saying that the families of the victims do not want any compensation before those responsible for the incident are revealed.
“It is impossible for us to talk about compensation before the perpetrators of this incident are found. We will accept compensation after they are found,” he added. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan announced last month that compensation payments, TL 123,000, were transferred to the bank account of the Şırnak Governor’s Office to be given to the families. But none of the families have yet claimed the payments sent to the governor’s office. The grieving families say the government should first explain the incident and punish those responsible.