Ministry launches investigation into suicide case of Zeugma Museum archeologist

Ministry launches investigation into suicide case of Zeugma Museum archeologist

İdris Emen - ISTANBUL
Ministry launches investigation into suicide case of Zeugma Museum archeologist

The Culture and Tourism Ministry has launched an investigation into the suicide of an archeologist, Merve Kaçmış, employed at the world-known Zeugma Museum in the southeastern province of Gaziantep.

It is claimed that she was exposed to workplace bullying after rejecting to take the responsibility of about 100 unregistered artifacts.

Her suicide on Jan. 13 came after an issue over refusing to be entrusted with unregistered artifacts.

Kaçmış is believed to have jumped out of the eighth floor of her apartment building in the southeastern Diyarbakır province after being unable to cope with the bullying on Jan. 13.

An archaeologist at the Zeugma Museum was suspended from duty in 2018, before returning in 2019 following appeals. He was appointed to the Provincial Directorate of Culture and Tourism but was expected to transfer the 9,000 artifacts he was entrusted with to another official.

However, 100 of these 9,000 artifacts did not have a museum registration number.

The museum management asked Kaçmış, who was working in the same museum, to take the responsibility of those artifacts as soon as possible.

Kaçmış said that she would take responsibility of the artifacts without registration numbers only after matching them with the artifacts in the museum registry.

But allegations suggest that the museum management had bullied Kaçmış into taking responsibility of the 100 artifacts without allowing her to match the registries.

After the suicide incident, the attorney of the family from Diyarbakır Bar Association Women’s Rights Center on Jan. 16 presented the power of attorney to the investigation.

Aslı Pasinli, the lawyer of the family who took a sample of the documents in the investigation file, said that there was a note written by Kaçmış before the suicide. Her suicide letter was added to the investigation file.

“We saw the note that Merve left before the suicide. But the writing was quite illegible. But it is clear from the statement that the note is a reference to the workplace,” Pasinli said.

“Her first sentence was ‘I didn’t do it, I’m innocent. There are cameras everywhere, you’ll see when you watch.” The rest of the letter could not be read. We will also request an analysis of the manuscript,” she added.

Pasinli said that they would demand an extension of the investigation into whether Kaçmış had been suicidal as a result of long-term workplace bullying.

“We will apply to the [Culture and Tourism] Ministry to initiate an administrative investigation on this issue, pointing to the suicide note that Kaçmış left. We will request a psychological autopsy. Psychological autopsy is a detailed examination of the process leading to suicide,” Pasinli said.

“We will also ask that Merve’s colleagues should also be consulted for the 150-200 historical artifacts that were said to have disappeared in the museum to clarify this incident,” she added.

Ozan Kaçmış, the brother of the archaeologist, told daily Hürriyet that his sister had been working as a contracted archaeologist for two-and-a-half years at the Zeugma Museum.

“According to what she said, there were some artifacts whose responsibility was given to another officer in the museum. Since this officer was transferred to another institution, the museum administration started a process six-seven months ago for my sister to take over the responsibility,” he said.

“My sister said, ‘I only take responsibility of what I see.’ Then the pressure on my sister mounted. The last time I talked to her, she was very upset. She said that the museum administration sent her a letter saying, ‘let’s finish this work,’ but they couldn’t finish the takeover process,” he added.

“On Jan. 13 morning my sister left home to buy bread. When she didn’t show up, I went out to look for her. I saw her lifeless body on the ground in front of the building. The police conducted an investigation at home and found a note about my sister’s death. We didn’t see the note and we don’t know the content. But we think the note will shed light on my sister’s suicide,” he noted.

“Some of the personnel were dismissed from the duty and the incident is being followed in full detail,” the ministry said in the statement.

Meanwhile, the Culture and Art Union stated that some of the employees at the Zeugma Mosaic Museum had previously been subjected to mobbing and that some employees had also filed lawsuits.

“This incident, which caused the death of our archaeologist friend in the museum, is not a suicide, but a murder, and those responsible should be brought to justice immediately,” it said in a press release.

İlkay İvgin, the president of the Association of Archaeologists, also expressed his condolences regarding the death of Kaçmış.

He said the association would follow the incident.