Stop Turkeys unlawful and extrajudicial killings of Kurdish civilians and politicians

HDP Europe Representation. 07.07.2023

The Turkish governments unlawful and extrajudicial killings of Kurdish civilians and Kurdish politicians continues. Still, elected mayors, councilors, deputies, members of parliament, heads of civil society are arbitrarily and unlawfully imprisoned, and with no consideration of international law. Those who flee this oppression and take refuge in Southern and Rojava Kurdistan are murdered through criminal methods or drone attacks; both in violation of international law.

The attached letter is an expression of Kurdish political refugees in Kurdistan region of Iraq and is concrete evidence of Turkeys cross-border practices and violations.

We ask you to pay attention to this appeal and to act before international organizations and institutions to stop the criminal activities of the Turkish state.

International norms must apply to all, and democratic criteria must not be sacrificed to economic interests. Failure to defend our common international norms and democratic criteria will only lead to dangerous global chaos.

Please do not hesitate to contact us for further questions.

Open Letter

His Excellency Mr António Guterres 

United Nations

New York, NY 10017



Dear Secretary-General

We are Kurdish citizens of Turkey who have taken part in legal political activities with the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) and have been subjected to unfounded allegations, detentions, and imprisonments. Now we are political asylum seekers in Sulaymaniyah in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, trying to survive with our families in difficult economic circumstances, and at the same time facing serious death threats. We have come to this region at different times over the last fifteen years and have lived and worked quietly and conscientiously, in line with our respect for humanitarian values.

However, we have not been accepted by the regional authorities, nor by international institutions. We have received no material help, and, most importantly, no one is taking action to ensure our safety. In Turkey we were imprisoned and tortured for any attempt to pursue rights and freedoms. In the Kurdistan region, where we have taken refuge, we are murdered in the centre of the city – at the door of our homes or in our workplaces. And those who murder us escape without being caught, despite CCTV and police and security forces.

We believe – and this is supported by comments from the Turkish government itself – that these executions are coordinated by the Turkish National Intelligence Organisation (MİT); and the ease with which they are carried out suggests cooperation at the local level. The Region lacks an effective independent judicial system and politics is dominated by close economic ties with Turkey.

Although we have been living in this region for years, we are still asylum seekers. We are not recognised as refugees – including by the UN – and so cannot get the help this recognition would entitle us to. It does not seem to us as though the humanitarian organisations abide by humanitarian values. After numerous meetings, the only results we have seen are statistical data for reports.

The lack of action following the murders of our friends allows such murders to be repeated with impunity. We know that international organisations have the power to put pressure on the governments in this region to help stop these murders, and we ask what is the purpose of these international organisations if they are content to remain silent? Why is the massacre of our people only being watched? Why is this aggression of the Turkish state against civilians, in flagrant violation of all international law, not being prevented? Why, despite our SOS calls, are no security or protection measures being developed?

Below are details of some of the people attacked and murdered in Sulaymaniyah.  There are photographs and videos of the attacks, and also audio recordings of the victims being threatened and records of the phone numbers they were called from.

Ferhat Bağışkondu, an employee of Can Diyarbakır bus company, was seriously injured in an armed assault when he opened his office on the morning of 16 September 2021. Camera recordings are available.

Mehmet Zeki Çelebi, a businessman, was murdered in front of his restaurant on 17 May 2022 in front of his family. Camera recordings are available.

Nagihan Akarsel – an academic and journalist who was working for women’s rights, conducting women’s studies, and setting up a women’s library – was murdered on 4 October 2022 as she was leaving her home.

Hüseyin Türeli, a businessman, was murdered on 18 April 2023 at his workplace in a shopping mall in Dohuk city. One year earlier he had suffered an armed attack and survived with injuries.

Hüseyin Arasan, who took refuge in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq after 17 years in prison for legal political activities in Turkey, was murdered on 9 June 2023 in front of the door of the workers’ association of which he was a member.

Since we took refuge in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, there have been threats against our families in Turkey, along with police raids and harassment. In addition, we are constantly receiving threatening phone calls. We are being called by MIT from various phone numbers with both Turkish and regional area codes. Before they were murdered, our friends first received repeated threatening phone calls. Today, the calls and threats continue, and we receive messages saying “It’s your turn”. As civilians, our lives are visible and unprotected. Each of us is under threat of being killed at any moment. We are waiting defencelessly for our turn to die. We are asking for help from international organisations that can stop these killings – and especially from the UN.

We are asking for a delegation be formed and sent to the region, including representatives from the UN and other international human rights institutions, to investigate the killings and publish the results.

We demand that Turkey is held to account for their actions, and that international organisations use their powers in the Kurdistan Region and in the international arena to warn and pressure the regional governments to stop these murders and take security measures.

As asylum seekers, we call on the international organisations to fulfil their responsibilities to ensure our right to life – to help us meet our social and economic needs and our overriding need for safety and protection. Silence will allow the murderers to commit further crimes.

We hope and trust that you will put this highly critical subject on your agenda and stop the extra judicial killings.

Yours faithfully

Initiative of Kurdish political refugees in Kurdistan Region of Iraq