I was attending a very interesting international roundtable last Saturday at my University, Bilgi, organized together with the Democratic Progress Institute, attended by brilliant politicians such as Bertie Ahern or Roelf Meyer, about conflict resolution. The idea was to discuss good examples of the resolution process concerning social conflicts around the world. Conflicts that have turned into an armed struggle, like in Ireland and Great Britain once, like in South Africa during Apartheid times. The news fell into the morning session like a bomb: Tahir Elçi, a famous lawyer, an activist in human rights, president of the Diyarbakır Bar was assassinated. He normally would have taken place at the roundtable, desisting at the last moment because of an unexpected visit from a foreign delegation... A very reputable Kurdish lawyer, who has recently received many threats and who was under constant surveillance of security forces, has been assassinated.
Nobody wanted to believe in the news first, people trying to reach dependable information sources in Diyarbakır were all over the hall and the conference room. The confirmation came unfortunately quickly, Barrister Elçi was killed, shot with a single bullet to his neck.
All of a sudden, this day-long roundtable lost its meaning and functionality. Participants organized a wrap-up session and left, there was nothing left to say. The more I could learn about the details of the attack, the more my surprise and my humiliation? grew. He and his party have been attacked by a commando of three to four people, while he was reading a public declaration condemning the use of violence. Immediately policemen surrounding Elçi and his colleagues tried to intervene. A police officer in plain clothes was killed instantly, two other wounded. During the turmoil that followed, another hitman approached the group, while exchange of fire was taking place, and shot Elçi in a very professional way, killing him instantly. Most of the attack was filmed by television reporters covering Elçi's declaration. It seems incredible, but the people firing at Elçi's party are filmed escaping, whereas other police officers fire at them at very close range and miss. One of them has been identified as Mahsun Gürkan, member of an armed movement close to PKK.
Obviously, something is very rotten among the police forces. Two police officers have lost their lives, whereas assailants could escape unharmed or almost. After the terrible suicide bombing in Ankara, which took place before the eyes of special police forces, any citizen in Turkey is perfectly entitled to feel very insecure in any public location. Security forces have been divided before, especially by the end of the 1970s, among leftists and right-wing proponents. But this time it is extremely difficult to decipher what is happening within the security forces and among the judiciary.
What is certain is the assassination of a pacifist, a renowned Kurdish lawyer and human rights activist, a symbol for the violence-rejecting the Kurdish political movement. He was hated and despised by the conservative republican intelligentsia for having declared that the PKK was not just a terror organization. He was dreaded by the same PKK who fears a possible peaceful solution among Turks and Kurds, that would render the whole PKK structure functionless. It is very possible that the PKK has played a nocive role in this terror attack yet again. He was mostly symbolizing the hopes for a return to non-violence and cease-fire. Together with his killing, the hopes for an immediate return to negotiations and the stopping of killings have vanished. We will regret his very untimely and dreadful passing, but we will certainly regret yet another murder committed by the proponents of the use of violence in this country. Unless light is shed, for a first time, over this murder case, every single citizen of the Republic of Turkey will feel unprotected, insecure, vulnerable, without the protection of the law or security forces. It is up to the government to take immediate and bold steps in that sense, in order to avoid further deepening of the conflicts and the disappearance of the social contract between the citizens and the state.