Missing People: Mass Graves in Southeast Turkey

The graves of hundreds of missing people in Bitlis are waiting to be unearthed, the Human Rights Association, or İHD, has claimed following the excavation of a mass grave in the southeastern province earlier this week.

Relatives of the missing people are aware of the graves’ locations and more will be opened soon, Bitlis İHD branch head Hasan Ceylan told the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review.

“We, as human rights defenders, have made research everywhere in our districts and villages,” said Ceylan in detailing the source for their claim that there are 350 to 400 more graves in the provinces.

Ceylan said three more locations would soon be excavated as the necessary applications have already been filed with the Bitlis Public Prosecutor’s Office.

He also said they were in constant contact with their lawyers at the İHD’s Diyarbakır branch and that they were preparing murder cases for the people’s remains.

Excavations in the province’s Mutki district that began Wednesday unearthed the remains of 12 people next to a gendarmerie station. Relatives of the missing said nine people had been executed by soldiers in 1999 as they travelled to join the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, which is listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the United States and the European Union. The additional bones at the site are believed to be those of PKK members.

When asked if the İHD believed those dumped into the mass graves had been killed by JİTEM, a clandestine group alleged to be the intelligence unit of the gendarmerie even though its existence has never been officially recognized by the military, Ceylan said: “We do not just ‘think’ so. It is obvious.”

Ceylan said the excavation of the Mutki remains from a lot adjacent to the gendarmerie post indicated that JİTEM must have been involved in the killing of the 12.

The İHD Bitlis head also said cooperation among JİTEM, Hizbullah and Ergenekon was a well-known fact among “everyone in the area.”

Hizbullah, which has no ties to the Lebanese organization of the same name, is an alleged fundamentalist terrorist organization on trial for 188 murders. Ergenekon is an alleged ultranationalist, shadowy gang accused of planning to topple the government by staging a coup initially by spreading chaos and mayhem.

Journalist Günay Aslan located the first mass grave situated next to a gendarmerie station at Kasaplar Deresi in the southeastern province of Siirt in 1988. No proper excavation of the area has ever been conducted, but it is thought that the site could contain hundreds of bodies.

Aslan has consequently reported on dozens of similar mass graves in the area where the bodies of executed Kurds were allegedly dumped.

Meanwhile, daily Evrensel reported Friday that some of the families who have pointed to the locations of their missing relatives are being prosecuted on charges of “praising crime or criminals.”

ÖZGÜR ÖĞRET
ISTANBUL – Hürriyet Daily News
January 7, 2011

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