MALATI – The young Kurdish student who was shot dead by a police officer ahead of the Kurdish Newroz celebration in Turkey’s southeastern Diyarbakir province, had survived the Ankara train station massacre perpetrated by the Islamic State (IS) group in October 2015, which killed 103 civilians.
New details continue coming to light in the killing of fine arts student Kemal Kurkut, who died after being shot by police at a checkpoint in Kurdish-majority city Diyarbakir on Tuesday.
Forced to strip by police
According to eyewitnesses, the young man was forced to strip by police at the checkpoint and verbally abused, after which he ran away and returned with a knife he stole from a nearby butcher’s shop.
Speaking to Dihaber News Agency, the young man’s brother Ferhat Kurkut corroborated statements saying, “the police point their guns at him and he tells them, ‘I have nothing on me’, they make him take his clothes off, he argues with them but does what is told. After he is forced to take his vest off he suffers a nervous breakdown. That’s when it all happens.”
Survived Isis suicide bomb attack
The victim’s cousin, also called Kemal, told Dihaber that the young man suffered trauma after experiencing the death of more than 100 people in the twin suicide bomb attack at a peace rally in Ankara in 2015.
“He wasn’t injured physically, but spiritually he collapsed after that incident. He became introverted, quiet and withdrawn. When we asked him what he had experienced he would just say, ‘People were ripped to pieces, their blood was everywhere.’ People’s blood has also sprayed on to him. He couldn’t get over it.”
The cousin called the shooting an “extrajudicial killing” and said the family wanted the person responsible to be found and punished.
Violation of right to life
The Diyarbakir Bar Association and Turkey’s Human Rights Association (IHD) also made statements calling the incident “an outright violation of the right to life.”
The Diyarbakir Bar Association criticised the local governorate’s statement, which had said Kurkut had been shot due to suspicions of being a suicide bomber and having a bomb in his bag. The association said that images, eyewitness statements and later developments had proven this not to be the case.
Reports pointed out that Kurkut was running away from police and had not attacked them at any point when he was shot. The area he was running towards was empty with three hours until the start of celebrations, Dihaber said.
Clothes and poems in bag
According to family members there were clothes and poetry books in the student’s bag, which was in the possession of police when the shooting occurred.
The opposition People’s Democratic (HDP) Party organised a press conference on Thursday and called the killing “murder.”
HDP spokesperson Osman Baydemir said the incident had been engineered by police to prevent the Newroz celebration and provoke large scale violence.
Commenting on the government’s silence so far, Baydemir added, “By ignoring this murder the prime minister, the justice minister are also responsible” during a visit to Kurkut’s bereaved family.
Another HDP lawmaker, Ahmet Yildirim, went on social media to vent his anger, saying:
“If this sensitivity had been shown in the cases of real suicide bombers hundreds of people wouldn’t have died in the past 2 years. My respects to this beautiful person [Kemal Kurkut].”
Family prevented from washing corpse
Criticism was also directed at the AKP government administered Battalgazi District Municipality in eastern city Malatya, where Kurkut was buried.
According to family members, municipality workers cut the morgue’s water to prevent the washing of the young man’s corpse, didn’t allow for him to buried next to his father and blocked a funeral vehicle belonging to the municipality from carrying his coffin.
Family persecuted for being Kurdish Alevis
Uncle Yusuf Kurkut condemned the actions saying it was because they belonged to the persecuted Alevi and Kurdish community in the country.
Uncle Yusuf Kurkut told Cumhuriyet daily, “They [the government] said ‘democracy’ but where is it? They said ‘equality’ but where is it? How can you shoot an innocent 20 year old? What is our crime? I am an Alevi, this is my crime. I am Kurdish, this is my crime. I am poor, this is my crime. If there is justice, where is it?”
Extrajudicial killings, forced disappearances
At least 10,000 people are thought to have been killed in extrajudicial killings (enforced disappearances) by governmental forces without the sanction of any judicial proceeding or legal process since the 1990’s in Turkey. Most of the incidents occurred at the height of the war between the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and Turkish army.
However the procedure has continued under the tenure of the Erdogan government, with hundreds of civilians being killed since a return to clashes in 2015. Turkish authorities deny killing civilians and have called those killed “terrorists.”