Reality of mass graves at conference in Diyarbakir

If you want to learn the history of this country you don’t need to search in the books. You should search the earth”. Pervin Buldan’s words are hard to take in. The Labor, Democracy and Freedom Block deputy speaks in a calm, firm tone. She is one of the speakers at the international conference on mass graves organised in Diyarbakir by YAKAY-DER (Association of families of victims of enforced disappearances) and MEYA-DER (Association of Mesopotamian families of victims of enforced disappearances).  “There is not one single Kurd who has not been affected by the disappearances of someone he or she knew. This is the reality of our people, of our land. We have given our husbands, children, brothers and sisters”. Pervin Buldan personal story is a story which has been lived by thousands in Kurdistan. Her husband Sava? Buldan, has been killed by unknown people. In 1993 the then Prime Minister of Turkey, Tansu Ciller, made a speech declaring that the government had a list of businessmen supporting the Kurdish Workers Party (PKK) whom they would hold accountable. After that speech, Sava? Buldan received a series of threatening telephone calls. On 3 June 1994, Pervin’s husband Sava? and his two friends, Adnan Y?ld?r?m and Hac? Karay were abducted by eight policemen after leaving the Hotel Ç?nar in Yesilköy. The next day their bodies were found in Bolu, at the edge of the river Melen. They carried scars of heavy torture and had been shot in the head. Pervin Buldan gave birth to her daughter, Zelal on the same day.
In 2001 she founded Yakay-Der, the Association of Solidarity and Assistance for the Families of Missing Persons, to help the families of missing persons in Turkey. Yakay-Der grew out of the experience of the ‘Saturday Mothers’, who used civil disobedience to gain publicity and bring attention to the ‘disappearances in custody’ cases. These cases became known to the public in Turkey as well as to the world at large. Buldan at the conference in Diyarbakir has told how every week they would hold sit-down demonstrations at Galatasaray Place to ask for justice.
“Yesterday – she said – it was the children looking for their fathers. Today is the nephews looking for their grandfathers. We are now into the second and third generation of people asking justice for their relatives”.
At the conference various issues were discussed. Among them the need to establish a Truth Commission, a DNA Bank, and the need for Turkey to comply with international laws, in particular the Toronto Protocol. Among the speakers were also representatives of foreign organizations. In particular Manuel Perona, president of the association for the recovery of historical memory in Catalunya made a poignant speech about the current situation in Catalunya and Spain, where the existence of some 2,200 mass graves have been established. The Spanish civil war (1936-1937) caused over one million deads.
In Turkey the reality of mass graves first came to light in the late eighties – early nineties. In February this year the Human Rights Association released a report in which it is reported that over 200 mass graves have been located. Around 3000 people are thought to have been buried in these mass graves. Like in Spain and Catalunya in Turkey also it has been the work and insistence of civil society organizations which has indeed brought to light and to the media attention (albeit with many difficulties) the reality of mass graves. “The government is quick to honour the soldiers who died in the war – said Ozturk Turkdogan, general chairman of the Turkish Human Rights Organization – but not a single word is spent for the guerrilla or civilians who died as the result of the war”. This disparity has grown bigger and bigger and therefore it comes to no surprise to the Kurds that the government is not willing to address the issues of murders by unknown people, mass graves, disappearances. The civil society organisations know that their work is going to be diffucult as they will get no support from the government. Yet they are making a series of proposal. One of the proposal, as Turkdogan said, is the creation of a Truth Commission. “In our opinion – said Turkdogan – the commission should be formed by officials but above all by members of the civil societies. And it does not matter how many people would be part of it”.
Today as part of the two-days conference the organisers are planning a tour to Newala kasaba, the first mass grave discovered. The grave is said to hold the remains of up to hundred people, included one of the PKK founders, Mahsum Korkmaz. The participants to the conference will read a press release at the site of the mass grave.   


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