Turkish military points finger at civilian authority for conduct in Ağrı

Turkish military points finger at civilian authority for conduct in Ağrı

Turkish military points finger at civilian authority for conduct in Ağrı

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Saying it had been tasked by a civilian authority and its primary motive was not to conduct any military operation, the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) has denied accusations about its conduct in an incident that resulted in a deadly clash with the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in the eastern province of Ağrı.

Brigadier General Ertuğrulgazi Özkürkçü stated on April 13 that the TSK had been conducting its duties and responsibilities as defined in the constitution, without becoming involved with any political views and formations. “Whatever party our citizens, who we serve support or are members of does not and will not change our duties,” Özkürkçü said.

He said they had “provided public security on the governor’s order,” after receiving notices from both intelligence units and tip-offs given to the Ağrı Governor’s Office a few days before the incident. 

“Gendarmerie units - who are public order and law enforcement forces - were tasked with security measures at the ‘Spring Festival,’” Özkürkçü said in an interview with the state-run Anadolu Agency. “This preventive measure taken because of security has nothing to do with the Turkish Armed Forces. However … the Gendarmerie didn’t go to the region to conduct an operation where the latest clash erupted.” 

“These kinds of measures have been implemented with the same level of rigor in similar activities in every corner of our country,” Özkürkçü added.

A telephone interview, even with a state-run news agency, is not the General Staff’s customary way of making public statements. Official statements are usually posted on the official webpage of the General Staff, www.tsk.tr. 

In a statement posted on its official site over the weekend, the TSK said five PKK militants were killed and four Turkish soldiers were injured in Ağrı on April 11, in clashes that erupted after PKK militants opened fire on security forces. The PKK denied that its militants attacked first, claiming that one civilian and one PKK militant were killed in the clashes.

Meanwhile, Özkürkçü also praised the locals who were photographed helping wounded soldiers in Ağrı. 

“As the TSK, we don’t accept the simple definition of ‘citizen’ for those who helped our wounded soldiers in Ağrı by being a ‘human shield.’ The spirit that our citizens displayed here is beyond all kinds of appreciation. It is a most beautiful reaction showing that our citizens in the region are against terror,” he said.

The pro-Kurdish news agency Dicle News Agency (DİHA) said the military had fired on a “tree planting” event and that one civilian, Cezmi Budak, had been killed by a bullet to the throat.

Speaking at the April 12 funeral for Budak, the HDP’s provincial chair in Ağrı, Sabri Tayfur, said Budak had entered the area as “human shield.”

TSK extends thanks to locals

Earlier on April 13, the TSK released a separate statement extending its gratitude to the locals of Yukarıtütek village in Ağrı for assisting with the evacuation of Turkish soldiers who were wounded during clashes on April 11. 

“Our citizens, who came to the area during the air evacuation of our four personnel who were wounded during the clashes with the terrorists of the separatist terror organization, at Ağrı’s Diyadin district’s Yukarıtek village on April 11, deserve admiration. [This act] has shown the commitment and love our citizens have towards Turkish soldiers and has also formed a good example of our nation’s unity and togetherness,” read the statement released on the General Staff’s webpage. 

In remarks delivered in his party’s fist election rally in Istanbul’s Kadıköy district on April 12, Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) Co-Chair Selahattin Demirtaş accused the General Staff of “working for the AKP [the ruling Justice and Development Party,” not the country as a whole. 

“There wasn’t a clash in Ağrı, there was a pre-planned, fake operation,” Demirtaş claimed. “There were no ambulances, they carried the soldiers in bed sheets. There is footage of this incident.” 

Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu’s response was extremely harsh, slamming the HDP co-chair for “lying and distorting the facts.”

“Nobody should play the role of the peace dove,” Davutoğlu said on April 12, when asked to comment on Demirtaş’s remarks. 

“Mr. Demirtaş is exactly [acting] like a chameleon: Different in the west and different in the east. His spokespeople in Doğubeyazıt cooperated with terror. One cannot exist in democratic life in Turkey by using different languages in Doğubeyazıt and Kadıköy,” he added.