Sit-in of mothers demanding return of their children’s bodies enters 40th day – Gülten Üstüntağ

Sit-in of mothers demanding return of their children’s bodies enters 40th day

Mothers of people killed in the conflict-ridden Sur district of Diyarbakır demand that the state hand over to them the bodies of their dead children. (Photo: Today’s Zaman, Gülten Üstüntağ)

A sit-in being held in a cultural center by mothers of people killed in the conflict-ridden Sur district of mainly Kurdish Diyarbakır entered its 40th day on Thursday.

The sit-in was undertaken to highlight the mothers’ plea that the state hand over to them the bodies of their dead children that continue to lie in the streets of Sur.

Weeks-long curfews imposed by the state in the predominantly Kurdish Southeast and the continuation of an intense conflict between security forces and the terrorist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) means the suffering of families in the region does not end.

Sur is one of the major conflict zones in the Southeast with an increasing number of civilian casualties. Amid the recent loss of lives, there are allegedly still 200 civilians, including children, that are trapped in Sur amid intensified efforts by civil society initiatives to allow a “safe corridor” to be established to evacuate them.

Turgay Girçek, Gündüz Akmeşe, Rozerin Çukur, Mahmut Oruç, Cihat Morgül, Welat Bilen and Hakan Aslan were killed during clashes in Sur. However, their bodies have yet to be handed over to their families some 40 days after their death. The mothers of the deceased have called on state officials to give them the bodies so that they can bury their children.

‘I heard about my son’s death on TV’

Mother of Girçek (19), Makbule Girçek, told Today’s Zaman on Thursday that she heard about the death of her son while she was watching the news on IMC TV nearly 45 days ago.

“When Sur was besieged by tanks, I took my five children and left Sur by taking shelter at my mother’s home. Turgay wanted to stay in Sur, and I didn’t hear anything from him for days. Weeks after we fled, I saw a photo of my son on an IMC TV news program and heard that he had been killed. State officials accused him of being a terrorist, but my son had nothing to do with terror. He had dreams, and they, along with his life, have been destroyed,” the mother cried.

Holding her son’s photo, the mother wept with grief and said she just wants her son’s body to be returned her.

“All I want is to bury my son in a cemetery so that I can visit him. When my son died it was winter. Now, spring is at the door, but my son’s body still lies on the ground. I call for peace. I don’t want other mothers to suffer as I have. I call on all mothers of the country to support my call for peace,” Girçek said.

The family fled a village in Diyarbakır in the mid-90s when their village was set on fire. “My family and I fled in terror but the terror found my son in Sur. Was it a crime to live in Sur?” she asked.

Fatma Akmeşe is another mother that has lost her son, Gündüz Akmeşe, to terrorism.

Gündüz (28) had been married for one year when security officials called for the evacuation of Sur as fighting first broke out in the district. Consequently, the whole family left the district.

Later, when the curfew in Sur was briefly lifted, Gündüz returned home along with his mother and several siblings to get some more of his possessions to take to the home where they had found refuge with relatives in Diyarbakır.

Fatma Akmeşe and her other children left Sur and Gündüz was going to follow on after them. But later on the family realized that Gündüz had not caught up. They waited for him, but he didn’t appear. Fatma learned that her son was killed as she was leaving Sur.

“Snow fell, it rained, spring is on the way but my son hasn’t arrived. My son’s body is still lying on the ground 40 days after his death. I want my son’s body. I don’t want any mother to cry like me,” a grief-stricken Akmeşe said.

Akmeşe and her family had fled terror in Bingöl and settled in Sur with hopes of a better life.

Fahriye Çukur, mother of Rozerin Çukur (17), is another woman that joined the vigil weeks ago, but she suffered a heart attack several days ago, preventing her from taking part in the vigil.

Several family members of another young man, Ramazan Ögüt, who was also killed in Sur were also in the building allocated for their wait by the Diyarbakır Municipality. Öğüt’s aunt was kissing his nephew’s photo every five minutes.

Since a curfew was imposed in late November 2015, nearly all locals in Sur have left the district and almost 15 schools have closed and over 7,000 students have been deprived of their right to an education.

This news piece was published by Today’s Zaman as well.

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