Three Diyarbakır women who last saw their husbands 18 years ago when they were taken into custody by the gendarmerie intelligence unit JİTEM, whose existence has been consistently denied by Turkish military officials, want closure.
Saliha Bulut, Dilber Bulut and Kamile Bulut in Diyarbakır’s Kulp district were all forcefully separated from their husbands, when they had only been married for two years, on the same day. They now seek only a grave at which they can offer prayers to their husbands, the fathers of their children aged 2 months to 2 years at the time at which they went missing. Taken into custody on Sep. 11, 1993, during the Emergency Rule Region (OHAL) years on the pretext of “assisting terror,” the three men remain among the thousands whose names are on the nation’s list of unsolved murders.
The detainment followed the gendarmerie’s military blockade of the Alaca village after clashes with terrorists. The gendarmerie gathered all the men in the village center and detained only the young men. Latif Bulut, father of the then 22-year-old Mustafa Bulut, says that he pleaded with the general to release his son, who was at the time a father of a two-month-old baby, to which a lieutenant responded by putting his hand on Latif Bulut’s shoulder and telling him that they would “release him after one hour.”
When the men were not released by nightfall, Fahri Bulut, cousin of Mustafa Bulut, went to Yolçatı village, where the military unit was deployed, but then also went missing. After this, Fahri Bulut’s brothers Ekrem Bulut and Ramazan Bulut and their cousins Ali Bulut and Salih Bulut also went to the same village to ask about those held in custody. The four men went missing after learning that the men who had been detained were being held in Lice.
While Salih Bulut was released from the military unit one hour later, Ramazan, Ekrem and Ali were not. A total of 11 male members of the Bulut and Örhan families were detained and were never heard from again.
Mustafa Bulut’s wife, Dilber explains how she constantly looks at the suit her husband wore on their wedding day and cries and says that she was left with two children, one just 2-months old, when her husband was driven away in the gendarmerie vehicle. Stating that she constantly faced her children’s questions about the whereabouts of their father, Dilber Bulut says she could only respond that he would one day return and that she too was waiting for him. “I have been waiting for Mustafa for 18 years. I live with the hope that he will one day come back. That is why I keep his clothes,” she said. She believes that her husband’s assailants were from within the deep state in Turkey.
Fahri Bulut’s wife Saliha also describes, fighting back her tears, the endless pain that she has endured over the past 18 years. Explaining how she learned that her husband was being questioned in the basement of a Regional Primary Boarding School (YİBO) building, Saliha said they was too scared to go and ask. “They left me all alone and my children without a father when I was just a young woman. When he had only gone to the station to ask about his cousin, what was my innocent husband’s crime? Why did the state do this to us? What did we do to deserve this?” she asked.
Saliha Bulut explains the great pain that not even knowing a grave at which to read prayers for her husband causes for her. “This is such a difficult situation that I would not wish it upon an enemy. I do not know for sure whether my husband has died, or whether or not he will return. We are just waiting,” she said.
Kamile Bulut, Ali Bulut’s wife, explains that bones that were unearthed in 2004 were found to belong to her husband, but that despite this, his remains were not handed over to her. Living in Diyarbakır with her four children, she says that she cannot bear the fact that nothing has been done regarding her husband’s assailants. “For years, I jumped at every knock at the door and every time the phone rang wondering ‘Did he come?’ and ‘Could it be him?’ When his bones were discovered in 2004 my world came to an end, and my knees gave way. We then wanted the bones so that we could have a grave at which to recite prayers for him. And now they are saying that his bones are missing. What kind of a conscience is this?” she asked.
It is believed that the illegal network inside the gendarmerie called JİTEM is responsible for the disappearances and deaths, as well as most of Turkey’s unsolved murders in the prominently Kurdish East and Southeast in the 1990s.
The bones of eight missing victims were found in a mass grave in Bağcılar village in Diyarbakır in 2003. Their bones were sent to the İstanbul Council of Forensic Medicine (ATK) for analysis where some bones were identified as belonging to Ali Bulut, Ekrem Bulut and Ramzan Bulut, as well as Hasan Örhan and Mehmet Örhan. The Kulp Prosecutor’s Office in 2006 sent the case file to the military prosecutor in Diyarbakır, but no developments have been recorded in the case until now.
“They say that the investigation continues, but we do not know what they have done so far. Not even one person was called to give testimony. I wonder if they want to relegate the case to obscurity,” said Serdar Çelebi, the lawyer for the victims.
The Bulut and Örhan families are still awaiting the day when the assailants are brought before the law. According to a parliamentary commission established in 1995 to probe unsolved murders, there were 908 unidentified murders between 1975 and 1994.