Turkey’s opposition speaks on bar union chief’s killing, legacy

Turkey’s opposition speaks on bar union chief’s killing, legacy

Turkey’s opposition speaks on bar union chief’s killing, legacy

CHP deputy Sezgin Tanrıkulu (L) and head of the Union of Turkish Bar Associations (TBB) Metin Feyzioğlu carry the coffin of Tahir Elçi, who was shot dead on Nov. 28 in southeastern Diyarbakır. AA Photo

Turkish society is unfortunately unable to mourn together, the co-leader of the Kurdish problem-focused Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), Selahattin Demirtaş has said, while also pledging loyalty to the legacy of prominent lawyer Tahir Elçi, who was shot dead on Nov. 28 in southeastern Diyarbakır and described by Demirtaş as a “peace envoy.”

“What matters is how we live, not how we were killed. We have seen a lot of grievances in our lands; we have seen blood and we have seen wars. Peace will of course come to our lands. Elçi’s last words are a flag of peace which we will claim,” HDP co-leader Demirtaş said on Nov. 29, as he addressed a crowd gathered in Diyarbakır to lay Elçi, the president of the Diyarbakır Bar Association, to rest.

“Tahir Elçi said ‘peace’ until his last breath,” Demirtaş said. “What killed Tahir was not the state, but statelessness. In Ankara, there is a governance and mentality which doesn’t feel this grievance in their hearts. How can we keep together a society which cannot even unite in grief? Because we know there are tens of millions who say ‘It serves him right’ for our ‘peace envoy’ president. Tahir’s legacy is weighty but our people will not forget their historical responsibility while carrying this weighty burden,” he said.

In a written statement released on Nov. 28, the HDP called the killing of Elçi (whose surname means “envoy” in Turkish) a “planned assassination” and urged people to protest. Videos from the scene showed a gun battle in the street, in which two policemen died, and Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu said it was unclear whether Elçi was caught in crossfire or assassinated. 

“We doubt that this political murder will be fully clarified. We have reasonable doubt since numerous grievances have been experienced in our lands. We couldn’t lay them to rest with relief, believing that the perpetrators would be captured because this state has never been the state of all of us. Everybody used the state as if it was their own property,” Demirtaş said.

In Ankara, releasing a written statement late on Nov. 28, main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu recalled that Elçi was shot while he and other activists were giving a press statement calling for an end to violence and protesting the destruction of a historic mosque in Diyarbakır’s Sur district during clashes between security forces and outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) militants. 

“In his last remarks, he was shouting, ‘we don’t want armed conflict or operations in this ancient region which has served as the cradle for a lot of civilizations, in this joint home of humanity.’ Those who took him from among us targeted our common values, which Tahir Elçi also pointed out,” Kılıçdaroğlu said.

“We will call those who want to resume their sovereignty by declaring a civil war in our country to account. We are not scared. We are resolved and determined more than ever. We will make peace and freedom sovereign in these lands, but not fear,” he said.

In parliament, CHP deputy parliamentary group chair Özgür Özel said he felt like he was living in the “Chronicle of a Death Foretold,” a novel by Gabriel García Márquez, as everybody knew that a murder would be committed but no one spoke about it.

“We all watched how Elçi was shown as a target in some media and in social communication networks on the internet and how he was openly turned into a target by reports against him,” Özel said, referring to the fact that Elçi was released pending trial over an interview in which he said the PKK, which has killed dozens of Turkish soldiers since the resumption of hostilities this past summer, was not a terrorist organization.

“The PKK is a political movement which has important political demands and which enjoys widespread support, even if some of its actions are of a terrorist nature,” Elçi had told CNN Turk television, sparking anger. He risked up to seven years in prison if convicted.  

Speaking to reporters on the same day, Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) leader Devlet Bahçeli said the killing of Elçi “saddened the entire [Turkish] society.”

“There is use in the government’s multidimensional investigation and finding murderers, if the attack was planned to escalate tension in an already very tense environment in Turkey,” Bahçeli said. “Failure is not possible if something does not exist anyway. There is no security in the southeast,” he replied, when asked whether he was convinced that there had been “a security failure.”