Portrait of a JİTEM hit man: Abdülkadir Aygan

Portrait of a JİTEM hit man: Abdülkadir Aygan

January 28, 2009, Wednesday/ 19:50:00/ MELİK DUVAKLI
One man came under the spotlight this week in a way never experienced before by his kind: former members of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) who have became informants for the state. The man, Abdülkadir Aygan, was in the headlines on Monday with various accusations against retired Col. Abdülkerim Kırca, who shot himself later that day.

In the story published hours before the colonel’s suicide, Aygan was quoted as claiming that he had witnessed Kırca, who received the State Medal of Honor from former President Ahmet Necdet Sezer two years ago, kill three men with a gun in the southeastern city of Silopi.

Aygan took shelter under the wings of the state after years in the PKK. He was, like most informants, recruited to do the military’s dirty work by JİTEM -- a secret and illegal unit formed within the gendarmerie, which was possibly intended to facilitate the military’s fight against ethnic terrorism in the Southeast but later became an instrument for terrorizing locals and a major player in the region’s illegal commercial activities, such as the drug and arms trades. JİTEM’s existence is still officially denied. The dead colonel was a JİTEM boss, according to informants and other ex-JİTEM members.

But what sort of a life has Aygan, the most well-known among PKK member turned informants, lived? Aygan was born in 1958 in the village of Uzunhıdır in Suruç, a district in the southeastern province of Şanlıurfa. He attended a vocational high school in Adana, where he was an accomplished athlete. As a young student, he had left-leaning thoughts. He clashed with ultranationalists on the streets of Urfa. He was wounded once by a gun. Two bullets, one in his back and one just a little bit above his right kidney, were removed from his body in the hospital. The PKK leader, Abdullah Öcalan, a relative of Aygan, visited him in the hospital after his surgery.

Joins the PKK

In 1977, Aygan joined the PKK in the first years that the terrorist group began to organize. He staged armed attacks against security forces in the Hilvan and Siverek areas in the Southeast. Then he was assigned to Nizip. His commander there was Ali Ömürcan, who was later executed by the PKK on suspicion of being an agent. According to Aygan’s own account, he killed six ultranationalists during this period. In 1980, he was captured by security forces. He was released after 18 months in three different prisons. After that, he was sent to the military to complete his military service. In 1982, while serving his military service in Cyprus, he fled to the Greek Cypriot part of the island. Later, he went to Greece, then to Austria and finally to Germany, where he met with PKK militants again. He was trained in PKK camps and then moved to Syria. Later, he was assigned to northern Iraq, where he stayed between 1983 and 1985, working as courier between different PKK camps. He also participated in the first violent attacks of the PKK in the Şemdinli and Eruh regions, leading the militants in terrain that he was familiar with. When he witnessed the brutal execution of another militant accused of being a spy, he escaped from the PKK and surrendered to military forces.

The JİTEM adventure begins

Once he surrendered, his adventure with JİTEM began. He was first interrogated at the Siirt Brigade Command. One of the interrogators was Maj. Cem Ersever, one of the founders of JİTEM, who was murdered in 1993 after quitting the military and talking publicly about JİTEM’s activities in the Southeast. Ersever convinced Aygan to become an informant, leading to his quick release from jail in 1990.

After his release, he was taken back to the military to do the remainder of his military service. According to his own accounts, he was assigned by an order of Ersever and Col. Arif Doğan, who is currently in jail on charges of being a member of the Ergenekon network, to a post in Diyarbakır, where he became part of a seven-person JİTEM team led by Ersever. When he finished his duty in the military, he was provided with a new identity. He was given a job in the gendarmerie as a civilian clerk. His new identity was Malatya-born Aziz Turan, and his real identity was noted as deceased in official records. Aygan was declared “killed in action” in a clash with the PKK.

Aygan, like many other PKK members-turned-informants, worked as civil servants with the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) and the gendarmerie. Aygan, who was officially dead, worked in the Diyarbakır and Burdur Gendarmerie Commands from 1991 to 2001. In a 2006 document that the gendarmerie sent upon an inquiry by the military court investigating the murders, it announced that five of the eight suspects in the case were being employed as civil servants by the gendarmerie.

Aygan accomplished much in his 10 years with JİTEM, from making blacklists of people to kidnappings, torture, hostage-taking, murder, extortion, theft and smuggling. Aygan resigned on Sept. 12, 2001. He is currently residing with his wife and five children in Sweden, which has granted him political asylum as a “victim of war.”

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