Statement by HDP Foreign Affairs Spokespersons Feleknas Uca and Hişyar Özsoy, 16.06.2023
Civilians, including children, continue to die due to state security policies regarding the Kurdish “problem” in Turkey. Children living under militarized conditions in Kurdish cities are killed by bullets and bombs, and also by security vehicles. The most recent Kurdish child to die as a result of being hit by a vehicle was 5-year-old Erdem Aşkan.
On 7 June, a police sergeant hit and killed Erdem Aşkan with his car in Yüksekova district of Hakkari province. The Yüksekova Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office launched an investigation into the incident, leading to the detention of the sergeant, who was soon released on the condition of judicial control.
According to a report released by the Turkish Human Rights Association’s Diyarbakır Branch, as of 7 June, 82 crashes involving armoured military or police vehicles or vehicles under the control of law enforcement officers have taken place in Kurdish cities in the last 15 years, resulting in 44 citizens, including 21 children, losing their lives, and a further 94 citizens, including 23 children, suffering injuries. The report made the following demands:
- Removal of armoured vehicles that have been scientifically determined to be unsuitable for use in civilian areas.
- Deterrent measures against violations by law enforcement officers working in the region as a result of careless driving that endangers citizens’ right to life,
- Effective judicial and administrative investigations against law enforcement officers who are perpetrators of acts that lead to death and injury due to the policy of impunity.
According to another report published by Diyarbakir Bar Association in 2022, 49 children were run over by armoured vehicles between 2011 and 2021, of whom 22 died while the rest were injured. All these “accidents” took place in Kurdish provinces except for one, which occurred in the western Marmara region. The Bar Association report recommended that, “Armoured vehicles should be banned from entering city centres, or their use should be minimised, and it should be ensured that they abide by the speed limits if a complete ban is not possible”.
In January 2022, the Memory Centre published an e-book entitled They Would Have Been Our Friends Had They Not Been Killed: Violations of the Right to Life for Children in the Kurdish Provinces. This e-book contains data on violations of the right to life of children between 2000-2020, compiled from the annual and monthly reports of the Human Rights Association, the Human Rights Foundation of Turkey, Mazlum-Der and Gündem Children’s Association. According to this database, between 2000 and 2020, 385 children were killed and 850 were injured by law enforcement officers due to armed conflict in the Kurdish provinces.
Alongside the recent killing of five-year-old Erdem Aşkan, we would like to draw attention to some other recent security vehicle “accidents” that have generated widespread public reaction:
- Efe Tektekin, 6, died when he was hit by an armoured vehicle while trying to cross the street on 11 September 2019, in the Bağlar district of Diyarbakır.
- In 2017, in the Silopi district of Şırnak, two brothers – seven-year-old Muhammet and six-year-old Furkan Yıldırım – died while sleeping in their bedroom when a panzer crashed into the wall of their house. The police officer driving, who was tried at the Cizre 2nd High Criminal Court, was acquitted, although it was revealed during the trial that he was not certified to drive the armoured vehicle.
- Another armoured vehicle accident occurred in the Cizre district of Şırnak in 2018. Onur Özalp, 5 years old, was seriously injured and died 9 months later.
It should be underlined that in incidents of death or injury resulting from actions of the security forces, there are often no investigations launched, or perpetrators may receive “penalties” that seem more like rewards. If there are no effective investigations or deterrent penalties against such incidents, perpetrators who kill civilians, including children, are effectively protected by an “impunity shield.” These deaths of Kurdish children are a result of a systematic policy of impunity for Turkish security forces, and if the perpetrators are not brought to justice, there will be many more similar “accidents” in the future.