Turkish pilots laid to rest

Turkish pilots laid to rest

ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily News
Turkish pilots laid to rest

Chief of General Staf Gen Özel (2nd from L) and PM Erdoğan (R) pray during a funeral for slain pilots of a downed Turkish jet. REUTERS photo

Hundreds of mourners and high-ranking government and military officials, as well as representatives of opposition parties, attended funeral ceremonies held in Malatya and Istanbul to bid farewell to two Turkish pilots whose jet was shot down by the Syrian army on June 22.

The somber military ceremony for Capt. Gökhan Ertan and Lt. Hasan Hüseyin Aksoy took place on July 6 at the 7th Main Jet Base Command in the southern province of Malatya, where the pilots’ plane had originally taken off on June 22.

Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdağ, Parliamentary Speaker Cemil Çiçek, Minister of Defense İsmet Yılmaz, Chief of General Staff Gen. Necdet Özel, force commanders and main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu attended the funeral.

Kılıçdaroğlu was the first to arrive at the funeral ceremony; he shook the hands of the relatives of the pilots and expressed his condolences. Erdoğan who cut short his vacation in the southwestern province of Muğla to attend, also conversed with the families. 7th Main Airbase Commander Rear Adm. Mustafa Avcı said the pilots had been shot down in a hateful attack while flying unarmed over international waters. “Two heroes are being sent to eternity,” he said. Directorate of Religious Affairs Vice Chairman Hasan Kamil Yılmaz said “These two martyrs were heroes who devoted themselves to their country.”

Late pilot Ertan’s father kisses both coffins in tears.

Lt. Hasan Hüseyin Aksoy’s family was in mourning earlier in the day at their home in Istanbul’s Bağcılar district. Aksoy’s father had hoped up to the last minute that his son would be rescued, said Hasan Aksoy’s uncle Orhan Aksoy. Hasan’s mother died when he was eight, Orsan Aksoy added.
“Our sorrow is so great, it’s a pain shared by the entire Turkish nation. The Turkish state is behind us, but I want to say Turks do not have any allies. Even Muslim countries are not [our] friends, like Syria. Long live our country,” Orhan Aksoy said, speaking to the Hürriyet Daily News. A high-ranking official from Turkish Air Forces paid a visit to Aksoy’s house while a Muslim funeral prayer was said in the neighborhood, in lieu of his funeral rites. Syrian forces shot down the RF-4 plane June 22. Turkey says it was hit in international airspace, but Syria insists it was flying low inside Syrian airspace.

Pilots died after crashing into the sea, autopsies show

The bodies of the pilots were found at a depth of 1,260 meters, near the wreckage of the jet which had broken up into eight pieces, the Chief of General Staff said in a written statement. Autopsies done at Malatya Forensic Medicine revealed the pilots died when the jet crashed into the sea after being shot; their bodies were found intact. According to the autopsy report, the pilots’ deaths were related to crash trauma; they were unable to use the cockpit capsule to escape from the jet as it went down.

Pilot’s dad sees son’s body over his doubts

Family of the late pilot Lt. Hasan Hüseyin Aksoy demanded to see his corpse after it was brought to the morgue at Istanbul’s Ataköy Mosque under suspicion that it was not actually Aksoy.

After talks with military officials where family members said “we do not believe that it is his body,” only Aksoy’s father was allowed to view the body, despite insistence from the late pilot’s aunt. The pilot’s father Osman Aksoy said that he had seen with his own eyes “the body belonged to his son.”

Commander of the First Army Yalçın Ataman was present in the room when Osman Aksoy saw his son’s body. When Aksoy’s father asked if his son’s body had been left whole during his death as the autopsy report said Ataman refused to answer, claiming he was too saddened from the scene he was witnessing.

Government, opposition, attends funeral in Istanbul

Aksoy’s religious funeral was held in Istanbul’s Ataköy Mosque in the presence of many high-profile members of the army, citizens and family members. Aksoy’s mother, Banu Aksoy, was hardly able to stand during the ceremony. Many colleagues of Aksoy from the Turkish military participated in the funeral.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Interior Minister İdris Naim Şahin, Parliamentary Speaker Cemil Çiçek, Chief of General Staff Gen. Necdet Özel and main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu also attended the funeral, during which they spoke with the fallen pilot’s parents. The officials also went to the Edirnekapı Cemetery as the pilots were laid to rest. Turkish pilot’s jetjet was shot down by the Syrian army on June 22.