Soldier and protester killed in clashes during operation to remove statue of PKK founder
A soldier and a demonstrator were killed in clashes that erupted between protesters and security forces during an operation to remove a statue of Mahsum Korkmaz, one of the founders of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in the southeastern province of Diyarbakır on Aug. 19.
Clashes erupted when a group of protesters gathered at the cemetery to prevent security forces from removing the statue. Mehdi Taşkın, 24, died at Dicle University Medical Faculty Hospital after reportedly being shot in the head. Specialized Sergeant Uğur Ünal, 27, also died later on Aug. 20 after being transported to the hospital, the Turkish Army said.
A Diyarbakır court on Aug. 18 ruled for the demolition of the statue, which was erected in Diyarbakır’s Lice district. The court ruling comes one day after the Diyarbakır Governor’s Office filed a legal complaint on Aug. 17. The Governor’s Office also demanded an investigation on “those responsible for the statue.”
Security forces left the scene after removing the statue. A group of protesters, mainly consisting of children, threw stones at military vehicles leaving the district.
The main road between Diyarbakır and Bingöl provinces has been closed to traffic and security check points have been established upon an order from the Diyarbakır Governor’s Office. Vehicles are also not allowed to proceed toward Lice.
The Turkish General Staff released a statement regarding the operation, saying a group of 200-250 people, including members of the PKK, attacked the troops who were removing the statue from the area. Security forces immediately responded after the group attacked them with rocket launchers, rifles and hand-made explosives between the hours of 6:20 and 9 a.m., the statement said.
The General Staff said the troops arrived back at their post at around 9:45 a.m. and that several bullets holes were found in military vehicles, as well as six bullet holes on two military helicopters.
The Governor's Office is expected to make a press statement in the coming hours.
The statue was unveiled in a cemetery for PKK members that was opened last year in Lice on Aug. 16, the anniversary of the first attacks by PKK militants in Hakkari’s Şemdinli district and Siirt’s Eruh district in 1984. Korkmaz, whose codename was Egîd, was killed by security forces in 1986.