The excavations began upon an application by the families of Fethi Yıldırım and Hakkı Kaya, who were allegedly kidnapped and killed in Diyarbakır in 1994, but prosecutors are also working to find bone fragments belonging to other victims of unsolved murders in the region.
An illegal network inside the gendarmerie called JİTEM is thought to be responsible for Turkey's unsolved murders in the predominantly Kurdish East and Southeast.
Investigators say the bodies might belong to civilians allegedly killed by JİTEM officers, as well as dead members of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK).
During the excavations, bone fragments belonging to Sadık and Seyithan Ulumazkan, a father and a son who were allegedly kidnapped and killed in 1997 are also being sought. The excavations continue at the Mardinkapı cemetery and five graves have been dug out. The bone fragments found in the graves opened so far will be sent to forensic medicine for DNA examination.
The excavations are under the supervision of prosecutor Osman Coşkun. In 2010, there were excavations in another cemetery for people without a family, searching for the bones of the victims but the bones were found to belong to other people.
Serdar Çelebi, a lawyer for the families of the victims, said there are thousands of people missing in the region so it is better to create a DNA data bank to quickly identify people when their bones are found in excavations.
Kaya's nephew Barış Ayna said his uncle has been missing since 1996 and his family learned that he was buried in a cemetery for people without a family in the village where it was abandoned.
İsmail Ulumazkan who was following the excavations at the cemetery said his father, Sadık, and brother, Seyithan, were kidnapped and killed in Diyarbakır in 1997. “Whenever there is an excavation, I go there and look for my father and brother with hope. When I learned that two bodies were exhumed from a single grave, I came to Diyarbakır from Viranşehir, a district of Şanlıurfa. I hope I will find them this time,” said Ulumazkan.