Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's wife, Emine Erdoğan, traveled on Tuesday to Uludere to meet with the relatives of victims of a deadly airstrike by Turkish fighter jets in December along the Turkish-Iraqi border.
The victims of the airstrike were killed on Dec. 27 as they were crossing the border with northern Iraq back into Turkey, having purchased goods on the other side for resale in Turkey. They are all from different villages of Uludere, or Roboski in Kurdish, a district of the predominantly Kurdish southeastern province of Şırnak.
The Turkish military said it had mistaken the group of border-crossers for terrorist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) militants. An investigation is still under way into what went wrong that resulted in the tragic mix-up.
The prime minister’s wife had planned to visit the district earlier but her visit was canceled due to adverse weather conditions. She was accompanied by Deputy Prime Minister Beşir Atalay and Family and Social Policy Minister Fatma Şahin. Erdoğan first arrived at Mardin Airport, where she was welcomed by Mardin Governor Turhan Ayvaz before heading to the village of Gülyazı in Uludere via military helicopter. She then offered her condolences to the men gathered in the village and visited the muhtar’s (village official) home, where the Quran was recited by the local mufti.
Later, the families of the Uludere victims stated they will not accept compensation money before the government finds and tries the perpetrators of the deadly attack. The villagers also told her they want their village, Gülyazı, to have a border gate into neighboring Iraq, which they see as a cure for unemployment as it would give them an opportunity to trade legally rather than smuggle goods. Some villagers also asked for the government to pay more attention to education in the region and to open education centers that teach the Quran.
“I would like to scream to the world from here that we are all siblings, we are all one. We are one and we are together. Nobody can separate us; nobody can divide us,” the prime minister’s wife said to journalists a day after meeting with the families. She said the government is determined to pursue the Uludere incident until everyone at fault is named and punished.
Erdoğan met with the mothers of some of the victims during her visit. She said of the meeting, “It was a meeting of mothers, because only a mother can understand the pain of a mother. Nobody else can.”
She noted that the families in the region completely trust the government. “They trust us; they hope we have the solution. You wouldn’t want something like that from someone you don’t trust.”
When a woman holding a picture of her son, who is no longer alive, approached Emine Erdoğan, the prime minister’s wife said, “We will not be able to bring him back but we will do our best to ensure that mothers do not cry anymore.” She said she had also brought a message of greetings from Prime Minister Erdoğan to the people of Uludere.