Civil society groups and locals in Şırnak in Turkey's Southeast have condemned a lynching attempt on a district governor who visited his district Saturday to offer condolences in a village there where 35 civilians were mistakenly killed Wednesday in a military airstrike meant to target the terrorist Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK).
An angry group assaulted Uludere District Governor Naif Yavuz on Saturday.
The spectacle of men throwing punches and stones at Yavuz was in response to Wednesday's airstrikes. Footage of Yavuz's visit show men booing, lunging forward and pummeling Yavuz as his aides try to hurry him down a road lined with parked cars and bleak, snow-covered slopes. At one point, dazed and disheveled, he runs down an embankment to get away from the crowd. Yavuz was taken to a hospital to be checked, according to reports.
Six people were detained Sunday as part of a probe into the attack. Locals in Uludere have said the attackers were outsiders seeking to foment agitation. Local civil society organizations have also issued statements condemning the attack.
In fact, the crowds that flocked to the hospital where Yavuz was being treated were so huge that the district governor had to leave the hospital on Sunday, even although doctors had not approved his release, so he could stay in a hotel where he would be able to accept visitors.
Dozens of Şırnak locals were at the Şırnak Military Hospital to express support for Yavuz on Sunday. Yavuz asked to be moved to a hotel to be able to see the large number of visitors who have been coming in to wish him well. “I would like to thank the people of Şırnak on behalf of the state, myself and family. They have shown great interest since the incident happened. All the visitors are saying that they deeply regretted the attack, and that they condemned it.”
Kamuran Kara, the head of the Şiyhan Neighborhood, said, “They simply provoked people to make his happen.” He added that he was deeply saddened by the attack.
Hilal Mayor Cafer Benek said the people of Uludere are very sorry about the attack.
The head of the Şırnak Business Owners and Artisans' Chamber, Mehmet Ali Ayan, said he deeply condemned the attack, saying it went against the traditions of the region. “This would never be done to a guest who visits to offer his condolences. We wouldn't have done this even if he was our enemy, which is not the case at all. We deeply regret what happened, and we are truly ashamed.”
Osman Geliş, head of the Şırnak Trade and Industry Chamber, said: “We condemn the attack on the district governor. A person who comes to share our grief cannot be attacked according to our traditions.”
Şırnak Journalists' Association President Baran Mendeş said provocateurs trying to generate agitation were behind the attack, reiterating earlier views that the assault went against the region's traditions.
Businessman Ali Bingöl, the president of Cizre Young Businessmen's Association, said Uludere locals have great respect and admiration for the district governor. “The district governor came to offer his condolences without a single body guard. This attack was staged not by the families of the victims but by outsiders. At any rate, this was a situation not worthy of Şırnak.”
Locals also reacted to the attack. “Our district governor is a respected person and he is known to like Uludere and the people of Uludere. We were deeply saddened by the assault,” one local said.
Deputy President of the Silopi Chess Association Selim Yalçın said: “This is unacceptable. We condemn this attack.”
Deputy Prime Minister Beşir Atalay visited bereaved families at their homes and said that members of a "party," an apparent a reference to the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP), had provoked the attack on Yavuz and that the families were disturbed by the incident and had apologized for it.
Yavuz commented on the attack Sunday at the hospital where he has been receiving treatment and thanked "the villagers who saved [me] from the hands of the provocateurs." Agreeing that the attacks were the work of provocateurs as he had not heard even a single negative word from the families of the victims during his visit, the district governor said despite everything, he neither resents nor is angry over the incident.
He added that he had been with the families from day one and attended the autopsies of the dead, denying claims from the BDP that he was late in visiting the families.
The Şırnak Governor's Office also said in a statement released Sunday that “dark circles” were behind Saturday's attack on Yavuz. “Coordinated efforts of the state's security forces and intelligence units to identify dark circles who guided these people [attackers] and to bring them to justice are still underway and the findings will soon be shared with the public,” the statement said.
According to the statement, the incident, which took place because some people were disturbed by the locals' respect for the district governor, was condemned by the families of the victims and locals as well.
Republican People's Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu was on his way to Uludere on Sunday after spending New Year's Eve in Van. However, the CHP convoy got into an accident when a truck rammed into one of the vehicles in the convoy on the highway from Van to Uludere. No one was seriously hurt, but the vehicle involved in the accident was badly damaged.
The CHP claimed that a helicopter had been arranged for the CHP team, but was canceled by the government last minute.
The strikes by F-16 jets, guided by intelligence from drones, hit a group of smugglers and resulted in one of the highest single-day civilian death tolls in Turkey's decades-old war with the PKK, setting off several days of violent demonstrations in predominantly Kurdish cities.
The PKK, labeled a terrorist group by Turkey and the West, threatened retaliation and urged protesters to mobilize.
Turkish officials have promised a full investigation into the botched airstrike and said those responsible will be called to account. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan telephoned the families of the victims in the village of Gülyazı in Şırnak province to express condolences, and his voice was broadcast through a loudspeaker.
"We share your grief; your pain is our pain," the Anatolia news agency quoted Erdoğan as having said. "Everyone must rest assured that all work is under way in relation to the issue."
TV channels showed one man telling Erdoğan on the telephone, "They didn't deserve to die in this way."
Erdoğan replied: "The issue is not that they were smugglers. You know the area; it is a very sensitive area. It is not possible for them [the military] to recognize each and every person."
State officials have also indicated that every family will be paid compensation for the victims. The maximum amount for victims of terrorism is set at TL 22,000 under the law, but officials have indicated the amount may be much higher in this case.
In a statement on Saturday, Kılıçdaroğlu said the government has yet to explain how the intelligence that led to the airstrike was compiled and who exactly was involved.
"It seems that the incident was caused by incorrect intelligence," he said. "Who provided this intelligence to military headquarters? They say no country would bomb its own people, but it has. Who will account for this?"
Turkey's National Intelligence Organization (MİT) has denied reports it provided the information that led to the airstrike.
The US recently moved four Predator drones to Turkey from Iraq to aid Ankara in its fight against the terrorists.