Thirty-five people were killed in an airstrike carried out by Turkish F-16 fighter jets on Dec. 28, 2011, near Uludere, in the southeastern province of Şırnak, not far from the border with Iraq. The military said the operation had been launched on the assumption that the 35 people -- local smugglers, who were bringing into Turkey goods they had bought on the Iraqi side of the border on the day of the attack -- were members of the terrorist Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK). Both military and civilian investigations are under way into what really happened, but many witnesses who have testified to the subcommittee on Uludere, which is part of Parliament's Human Rights Investigation Commission, have said it is nearly impossible to mistake ordinary smugglers for PKK terrorists.
The Uludere Subcommittee is compiling its final report on the incident, but documents they requested from the General Staff and the Ministry of Justice about a month ago have yet to be sent, subcommittee head and Justice and Development Party (AK Party) Ordu deputy İhsan Şener said in an interview with the Taraf daily that was published on Monday.
Şener said the commission had requested documents regarding the intelligence that prompted the airstrike by the General Staff and statistical data from the Ministry of Justice on smuggling along the borders. The commission will meet again in the middle of the week to reassess the situation, he said, given that the requested information has not been shared.
Republican People’s Party (CHP) Ankara deputy Levent Gök, who is also a member of the commission, told Taraf that the General Staff and Ministry of Justice had not responded at all to the commission’s queries. “There has not been a single satisfactory response as to why they haven’t answered our queries, either. The documents in the hands of the General Staff and the government are not being handed over to the commission. There is fear, and this fear is about the truth coming out. By hiding documents and information, they are de facto obstructing the commission’s work.”
CHP Sivas deputy Malik Ecder Özdemir, another member of the commission, said he suspects this to be a deliberate attempt to slow down the commission’s work to ensure the Uludere deaths are forgotten. He told Today’s Zaman: “I am saying this with much dismay on my part, but there have been attempts to water down the work of this commission since the beginning. It has been three months since the attack, but the commission hasn’t moved an inch. We are waiting on the reports from the relevant agencies.
“So, there are no legal limitations on the commission, but I think there is an attempt to make people forget about this, which is a different kind of statute of limitations.”
“We want to finish the report as soon as we can. I hope we will get responses this week and will be able to finish it soon,” said Şener, head of the subcommittee on Uludere, dismissing claims there is an attempt to cloud the issue. “Correspondence between agencies is taking a bit too long, that’s all,” he told Today’s Zaman.
Atilla Kaya, a Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) deputy who is also a member of the commission, said: “The questions we want answers to are very simple. What is the source of the intelligence received prior to the airstrike? Who gave the orders for the operations? [They are] that simple. Why have they been dragging their feet on this for so long? Is there anything else behind all this? We have yet to see why, but there has been a delay.” He added: “This commission will be useless if responses aren’t sent to us. What would the commission say in its report? It would be a hollow report without those answers.”
*Today’s Zaman Ankara-based reporter Ali Aslan Kılıç contributed to this report.