Controversial general’s name taken off barracks

Controversial general’s name taken off barracks

Controversial general’s name taken off barracks

The name of the controversial Gen. Mustafa Muğlalı was given to the barracks in Özalp, Van, by the Gen. Staff in 2004. DHA photo

A military barracks in the eastern province of Van that was named after a controversial military figure has been renamed.

The name of the Gen. Mustafa Muğlalı Barracks in Özalp, Van, was changed on Nov. 2 to “Martyr Master Sergeant Erkan Durukan Barracks” to honor a soldier who was killed in clashes with the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) on June 27 this year in Van’s Saray district.

In 1943, Muğlalı ordered the execution of 33 Kurdish peasants on the grounds that they were smuggling livestock into Iran – a widespread activity at the time that frequently triggered clashes with troops. Muğlalı died in prison after being convicted for his role in the killings.

“This is a decision intended to review the names of all places, and not just those in Van, and to rename them after persons martyred in acts of terror as often as possible,” Deputy Prime Minister Beşir Atalay told journalists in the Provincial Crisis Center in Van on Nov. 4.

The decision was made “following a countrywide study initiated by the Turkish General Staff,” Atalay said, adding that an official notice was issued about the matter as well. Locals find the name of Gen. Mustafa Muğlalı disturbing, Anatolia news agency quoted him as saying.

The “33 Bullets Incident” constitutes one of the darkest chapters in modern Turkish history. In the buildup to the incident, gendarmerie forces were sent to the Iranian border after a tip-off that members of the Milan clan – who lived in both Iran and Turkey – were smuggling a huge herd to Iran. Troops were unable to catch the suspects but they subsequently took 40 other members of the clan in Özalp into custody. The court arrested only five of them, leading an unsatisfied Muğlalı to order that 33 peasants be taken into custody for a second time. On July 30, 1943, Muğlalı ordered a summary execution, from which only one man managed to survive.

The massacre remained unquestioned until 1949, when the opposition Democrat Party (DP), which had a strong standing among Kurdish clans, asked for an inquiry. The developments led to the arrest and prosecution of Muğlalı, a senior officer in the Ottoman army in World War I and the 1919-1922 War of Independence.

Muğlalı pled guilty and a military court issued a death sentence that was later commuted to 20 years in prison due to his age. The top military appeals court overturned the sentence, but Muğlalı died in prison in 1951 at the age of 71 while the appeal process was still underway.

 In 2004, the General Staff named the Gendarmerie Border Command in Özalp after the general. Prior to the latest general elections, the opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) promised to remove his name from the barracks if it came to power.