A worrying racist attack sparking outrage in Turkey

A worrying racist attack sparking outrage in Turkey

A mob of 20 to 25 people attacked a burial ceremony in a public cemetery in the Gölbaşı district of the Turkish capital Ankara on Sept. 13 when the body of Hatun Tuğluk was being lowered into her grave, according to eyewitness reports. Shouting slogans of not wanting the body of a terrorist buried in the cemetery, they attacked the people who were there for the funeral. Following a jostling between the attackers and those holding the funeral, the family decided to pull the body back from the grave and move it to bury it in her hometown province of Tunceli, in the east of Turkey. The body was buried at last in peace in Tunceli on Sept. 14.

Hatun Tuğluk was the mother of Aysel Tuğluk, a member of the Turkish parliament from the Kurdish problem-focused Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) who is currently under arrest on accusations of helping terrorists along with nine other HDP deputies, including the party’s co-chair Selahattin Demirtaş. She was released on a special permission from authorities for a day to attend the funeral and was there when the mob attacked her mother’s funeral.

Osman Baydemir, a spokesman for the HDP, said it was a “fascist” and “racist” mob that was there with the purpose of preventing the burial. “They threatened the family by saying they would take the deceased body out of the grave by force and throw it away to a dump,” Baydemir said. “They even kicked the dead body,” he added, accusing the security forces of intervening late and the governor of Ankara for trying to downplay the outrageous attack. Baydemir demanded the government to bring the attackers to court and called on all “democratic forces” to stand against it.

Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu arrived in the scene soon after, but the family had already decided to go to Tunceli for good in order to protect the body of Tuğluk’s mother from another attack. Soylu promised the attackers would be found; with no report of arrest as of the evening hours of Sept. 14 when this piece was written. Like Soylu, Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdağ and Presidential Spokesman İbrahim Kalın also condemned the “inhumane” attack.

Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, the leader of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), who also strongly condemned the attack, also called Aysel Tuğluk to convey his condolences and urged the government to find and put the attackers to court.

The attackers, according to the eyewitness reports, also shouted slogans against the U.S. as well as those directed toward HDP members, calling them - even the deceased mother - terrorists. That means the mob was correlating the HDP with the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). Actually, many executives of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Parti) and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) have been doing that for a while. The U.S. link probably comes into the picture due to the American cooperation with the People’s Protection Units (YPG), an extension of the PKK in Syria, against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). It would not be too wrong to think that the mob could have been affected by the dominating political atmosphere, which suggests the PKK, designated terrorist by the U.S. and the European Union, is now a tool of the U.S. and are working together to pose a threat to Turkey’s national security. It would not be hard to assume that the mob was also motivated by Turkish ultra-nationalists, who can extend their anti-PKK sentiments - which exist across the political spectrum except the HDP’s grassroots - to anti-Kurdish hatred.

This is worrying. This is the first public record ever that such ruthless disrespect is shown to a dead body with such a level of intolerance that the attackers could not even bear the idea of dead people resting in peace side by side, like they did for the last thousand years. Kalın was right when he said this was a separatist act, besides being inhumane and lacking conscience, that could also give a huge propaganda opportunity to the PKK, which is seeking antagonism between Turks and Kurds. The government should pay maximum attention to not add fuel to the fire through antagonizing remarks while carrying out the anti-terror fight, in order to spare civilians from militants armed with guns in their hands.