A hundred children from the southeastern province of Diyarbakır named after the late Diyarbakır Police Chief Ali Gaffar Okkan gathered in Sakarya on Monday to commemorate him on the 10th anniversary of his death.
Okkan was killed along with five police officers who were guarding him on Jan. 24, 2001. The assassination was attributed to the Turkish Hizbullah, a religious extremist group.
Following the assassination, hundreds of families in Diyarbakır named their newborn sons after Okkan, a much-loved public figure in the province. A total of 101 boys named Ali Gaffar or Gaffar Okkan traveled to Sakarya this week as part of a project titled “Journey of Hearts: Martyr Ali Gaffar Okkan, A Story of Brotherhood.”
The children placed carnations on the police chief’s grave and prayed for him.
Sakarya Governor Mustafa Büyük delivered a speech during the memorial ceremony. “Martyrs have a special place in our hearts. We believe their spilled blood helps us to maintain the unity of our country. Today we are commemorating one of our martyrs who united the East and West of Turkey,” he said.
Hendek Mayor Ali İnci said it was hard to define the love and affection of residents of Diyarbakır had for Okkan. “I saw that people had pictures of Okkan in their houses and places of business. Okkan was in their hearts. He made a significant impression on people through his social projects.” İnci noted that they wanted to commemorate the legendary Diyarbakır police chief with this group of young Ali Gaffar Okkans.
“Diyarbakır residents allowed Okkan in their hearts and called their children Ali Gaffar Okkan. We called the Diyarbakır governor and discussed our project to commemorate the slain police chief with his young namesakes. May Okkan rest in peace. Today there are hundreds of Ali Gaffar Okkans in Turkey,” the mayor added.
One of the young participants at the ceremony, Ali Gaffar, said he was born only 15 days before the police chief was killed. “I was only 15 days old then. My father named me after Ali Gaffar Okkan. We love him. And we will continue to love him. One Gaffar was killed, but a thousand others are alive. I am going to become a police chief when I grow up,” he stated.
Hüseyin Side, a Diyarbakır resident who named one of his sons after Ali Gaffar Okkan, said the slain police chief was much loved by all the people of Diyarbakır.