Group of ‘wise men’ visit families of Uludere victims in Şırnak

21 April 2013 /TODAY’S ZAMAN, İSTANBUL – A group from the Wise Men Commission formed to raise public support for an ongoing settlement process to solve the decades-old Kurdish question in the country on Saturday visited the families of civilians who were killed during an air strike conducted by the Turkish military in Uludere, a district of Şırnak province, in late 2011.

Thirty-four civilians were killed in Uludere on Dec. 28, 2011, after being mistaken for terrorists of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). The civilians were smuggling goods from northern Iraq as part of their livelihood. The incident led to outrage throughout the country.

As part of their tour to raise public support for the ongoing settlement process, which aims to solve the decades-old Kurdish dispute through political and peaceful means, the southeastern regional group of wise men, which includes Foundation for Political, Economic and Social Research (SETA) Director Yılmaz Ensaroğlu (chairman); lawyer Kezban Hatemi (deputy chairwoman); former deputy Mehmet Emin Ekmen (secretary); academic Murat Belge; academic Fazıl Hüsnü Erdem; director Yılmaz Erdoğan; writer Etyen Mahçupyan; Confederation of Public Sector Trade Unions (KESK) President Lami Özgen and Association of Human Rights and Solidarity for Oppressed Peoples (MAZLUM-DER) President Ahmet Faruk Ünsal, paid a visit to Gülyazı, a village in Uludere, to meet families of civilians killed in the air strike conducted by the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK).

The group was welcomed by the families, which held photos of their children in their hands. The wise men talked with the families and the villagers and then went to the village cemetery to pray by the tombs of the killed civilians. Speaking during their visit to the cemetery, actor, screenwriter and director Erdoğan said: “I hope the 34 civilians will be the last victims of the dispute [between the PKK and TSK] and will be the heroes of peace.”

The villagers, in response, said they had experienced deep sorrow, but they support the settlement process so that no one else experiences the same grief in the country.Speaking on behalf of all the wise men group visiting the village, Ünsal said the people living in southeast Turkey have suffered from grief and problems brought about by clashes and armed fights, adding: “The peace process [settlement process] was launched to prevent any other incident like Uludere from happening in the country again. There is a huge support for the settlement process across the country. We are deeply sorry for the Uludere incident, in which 34 civilians died. We all hope peace will be established, justice will be served and people will forget what they experienced during the disputes.”

Felek Encü, the mother of Erkan Encü, a victim of the Uludere incident, said that they fully support the settlement process, but they want justice to be served regarding the incident and will continue their struggle to attain that goal. “We want the prime minister [Recep Tayyip Erdoğan] to take steps to find the perpetrators of the incident. We want to see the perpetrators face trial. We are exhausted and we don’t have any more strength to endure this grief. The bombardment [TSK air strike] not only killed our young people but also demolished our lives.” The Wise Men Commission comprises 63 members who accepted the government’s invitation. The wise men will conduct activities in Turkey’s seven regions. Each group comprises nine members, with one being the head of the group.