Prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said on Sunday that criticism of the government over the killing of 34 civilians on the Turkish-Iraqi border near Uludere last December is part of an international smear campaign against his ruling Justice and Development party (AK Party) government.
Speaking at the fourth ordinary congress of his party in İstanbul's new stadium, the Türk Telekom Arena, Erdoğan said: “There is an ongoing smear campaign over the Uludere incident. The outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party [PKK], the Peace and Democracy Party [BDP], the Republican People's Party [CHP] and certain media outlets are involved in this international smear and abuse campaign."
Turkish fighter jets bombed smugglers on Dec. 28, 2011, who were believed to be members of the PKK on the Turkish-Iraqi border near Uludere in Şırnak province, sparking outrage in Turkey. The Turkish military stated that 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.
Harshly criticizing the words of BDP deputy Hasip Kaplan, who recently said, “Which animal gave the strike order [for the Uludere bombing]?” Erdoğan said, “Those who say ‘who gave the strike order' and ‘such things happen in wars,' suffer from necrophilia.”
Interior Minister İdris Naim Şahin last week revealed that the strike order for the Uludere incident was given by top air force commanders who watched and analyzed the drone images in Ankara, dismissing claims in the media that the government had prior information about the attack.
The government has so far turned a deaf ear to calls for an official apology for the killing of the civilians in the incident. Earlier this year, it paid TL 123,000 in compensation to each family for the attack and said the compensation could be interpreted as a form of apology from the state, an act which led to much criticism.
The fact that no light has been shed on the incident so far has also made the government a target of criticism from those who want the truth to be revealed.
On Sunday, Erdoğan described the Uludere incident as a “mistake which saddened everyone”; however, he said the incident took place outside Turkey's borders and in a terror zone.
He also denied claims that efforts have been made to cover up the incident.
“Some just don't want to understand that judicial and administrative investigations have been launched separately into Uludere. They are still in progress. The issue was not covered up. As some recklessly, mercilessly and ignorantly claim and write, the issue was not covered up through the payment of compensation to the victims' families,” said Erdoğan.
The prime minister stated it is out of the question for his party to cover up the Uludere incident because his party is the one which has started the confrontation process of the painful incidents in Turkey's history such as the May 27, 1960, the Sept. 12, 1980, and the Feb. 28, 1997 military coups, unsolved murders and the Dersim tragedy, which concerns the deaths of tens of thousands of Alevis at the hands of the military in 1937.
In a landmark move last year, Erdoğan apologized for the 1937 massacre in Dersim on behalf of the Turkish state. Legal action against perpetrators of the 1980 and 1997 coups was taken for the first time in Turkey under the AK Party government after it abolished a constitutional article in 2010 which served as a legal shield for coup perpetrators.