Although it has been nearly a week since the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) kidnapped two soldiers and a health official in a rural area in the southeastern province of Diyarbakır, the incident has not gotten much attention in Turkey, both from politicians and from the media, leading to increasing concerns about the lives of those captured.
The soldiers and health official were kidnapped late on Saturday after PKK terrorists stopped their military vehicle along the Diyarbakır-Lice highway. The kidnapping case has found the attention it deserves neither in the Turkish media nor in politics, considering the fact that the lives of the three are at risk. The soldiers are reportedly from the Lice 2nd Mechanized Brigade and the health official works at a hospital in Genç, Bingöl province.
According to Mehmet Baransu, a journalist from the Taraf daily, the politicians’ silence could be understood for the time being, as they may be carrying out secret negotiations with the PKK to ensure the release of the kidnapped. He said the politicians may be wary of hurting the negotiation process if they speak about the issue publicly; however, he said it will be problematic if this silence lasts much longer, leading one to believe that something is going wrong.
Regarding the silence of the media, Baransu said some media organs that in the past gave kidnapping incidents extensive coverage with accusatory language against the government may have opted to remain silent this time because no elections are on the horizon, so bringing this incident to the agenda and accusing the government will not do them any good. “The current silence of some media organs in the wake of the latest kidnapping incident shows that their reactions in the wake of such incidents in the past were politically motivated,” Baransu told Today’s Zaman.
Turkey held general elections on June 12, which resulted in a landslide victory for the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government. The PKK had attacked a military unit in Hakkari’s Dağlıca district in October 2007, killing 12 soldiers, injuring 16 and kidnapping eight others. The kidnapping incident sparked a public outcry in Turkey and increased calls for an offensive against PKK terrorists based in northern Iraq.
For Öztürk Türkdoğan, chairman of the Human Rights Association (İHD), the silence or indifference to the kidnapped soldiers and the health official is not normal because the lives of three people are at risk; however, he said as a nongovernmental organization, the İHD is hesitant to take any action for the release of the kidnapped individuals because of the reactions it received following similar cases in the past. “When we [the İHD] intervened in similar cases to ensure the release of individuals kidnapped by the PKK, we did not get a ‘thank you’ from the state. On the contrary, we were accused of having links with the PKK. That’s why we are opting to remain silent now,” Türkdoğan said. However, the İHD chairman noted that the institution will take action if the families of the soldiers turn to the İHD, asking them to do so.
When asked what kind of action the İHD would take if the families contact it, he said: “We will call on the PKK to release the three. We can act as a mediator and pressure the group to release them safe and sound,” Türkdoğan added.
In a statement released yesterday, pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) deputies Aysel Tuğluk and Bengi Yıldız said their party was ready to take action if they are asked to make an effort in this regard. “If necessary, we will no doubt do our best to solve this crisis, as we did years ago when we committed ourselves to obtaining a positive solution to the crisis concerning eight soldiers who had been captured. Despite the cases and investigations conducted against us afterwards, we are once again ready to make any necessary efforts and play our role if the need arises,” Tuğluk stated.
Tuğluk was referring to the mediation of the now-defunct pro-Kurdish Democratic Society Party (DTP), for the release of the soldiers kidnapped in the Dağlıca incident in 2007. Some of the party’s deputies faced judicial procedures over their links to the PKK following this incident.
Yıldız said his party would take action for the release of the kidnapped individuals only if the government makes such a request of them.
3 Turkish soldiers wounded as PKK shells gendarmerie command
Three Turkish soldiers were reportedly wounded slightly after the outlawed PKK shelled the Hazro Provincial Gendarmerie Command in the southeastern province of Diyarbakır on Tuesday.
Diyarbakır Governor Mustafa Toprak told the Anatolia news agency that PKK members attacked the unit at 8 p.m. on Tuesday but that there was no damage to the building. He further said the rockets hit a cabin set up for soldiers to provide external security and that three officers were slightly injured. Toprak added that the PKK members escaped after troops responded with gunfire.
Security forces have launched a large-scale operation with air support to find the assailants.
In the meantime, a PKK terrorist, identified as Mehmetcan Oğuzsoy, was captured by security forces in a rural area of Samsun’s Ayvacık district after a group of PKK members clashed with the soldiers. The PKK terrorist was injured when they captured him. An extensive military operation has been launched in the region to capture the other fleeing militants.