Kurdish survivors do not believe Turkish
air strike attack was blunder
December 31, 2011
Kurdish people mourn for victims of a Turkish air
raid, at the cemetery of Gulyazi Village, Sirnak
province, near the Iraqi Kurdistan border, on
December 30, 2011. Photo: Getty Images
Kurds mourn for victims of a Turkish air raid, at
the cemetery of Gulyazi Village, on December 30,
2011. Thousands of irate Kurds today buried 35
civilian Kurds killed in a Turkish air raid. Photo:
Members of the Kurdish community in France burn a
portrait of Turkish PM on December 30, 2011 in
Marseille, France, during a protest against an air
strike by Turkish air force on civilian Kurds,
killed 35 Kurdish villagers. Photo: Getty Images
GULYAZI, The Kurdish region of Turkey, —
Survivors and witnesses of a Turkish air strike that
killed 35 Kurdish villagers as they smuggled goods
on Friday questioned the army's account that they
had mistaken them for Kurdish rebels.
"A 10-year-old, a 13-year-old cannot be terrorists,"
said Servet Encu, one of the survivors of Wednesday
night's airstrike, referring to some of the victims
of the attack.
For many of those smuggling goods across Turkey's
border with Iraq that night were youngsters -- and
according to the survivors, a few were making the
journey for the first time.
"We have used those roads to smuggle goods from Iraq
since our grandfathers' time," Encu said.
"And soldiers know that well," another survivor
"We were not carrying arms and the mules were
carrying only a few cylinders of gas and bags of
sugar," Encu said.
The lightness of their load should have made it
obvious the travellers were not fighters, he added,
for the separatist rebels from the Kurdistan
Workers' Party (PKK) travel with fewer mules, which
would be fully loaded.
On Wednesday evening, a group of around 40 people
travelling with about 50 mules left Ortasu village
in southeast Turkey to buy goods over the border in
The group loaded up with gas, sugar and cigarettes
to bring back and sell illegally in Turkey.
As the smugglers returned to Turkey, their lookout
men on the Turkish side of the border warned that
soldiers had blocked all three access roads that
smugglers used to get home.
"I and another lookout friend saw two teams of
soldiers blocking all the roads," said a 30-year-old
lookout, who asked to remain anonymous.
"We called (the group) and told them soldiers were
there and they should turn back to Iraq to not get
caught," he said.
Another survivor said the group had hidden their
mules in Iraq and headed to their villages in
But as they returned, Turkish F-16 warplanes began
their attack, dropping bombs on the convoy, the two
"When we saw the group in front of us take the first
hit, we started to run away towards Iraq," one
survivor, a 20-year-old Kurdish man, said.
Encu was among the group that was hit first.
Although he escaped unscathed, he said he was the
only survivor in a group of some 20 people.
"There were people among us who crossed for the
first time, students who need money for school,"
"I was the oldest in the group," the 31-year-old
"We heard the planes and blasts. Villagers called
out to the soldiers and asked what happened. They
told us everything was all right," the lookout man
A day after the attack, as anger grew among the
Kurdish community here, the military said that they
had targeted the convoy thinking they were fighters
of the separatist PKK.
And on Friday, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan
said: "Images transmitted by drones showed a group
of 40 people in the area, it was impossible to say
who they were."
Speaking to journalists in Istanbul, Erdogan
expressed his regret for what he called an
"unfortunate and distressing" incident.
But local Kurds do not believe them.
Already Thursday, at the state hospital of Uludere,
one 19-year-old survivor said soldiers had phoned
his village chief to say they could come and pick up
the bodies of the smugglers.
"How could they know the dead people were smugglers
if it is a mistake?" he asked.
All three locals said that last month villagers had
crossed the border much more comfortably,www.ekurd.net
as soldiers withdrew from near the border with the
approach of winter.
"If those killings had not happened, I am sure,
tonight, at least 200 people would be crossing into
Iraq," Encu said.
Asked if he would go on smuggling goods, he replied:
"What else I can do?
"If I don't do it, my son will."
Since August 17, Turkish jets repeatedly carried out
air strikes against the Kurdish PKK separatist
group's bases in
Iraqi Kurdistan region,
under justification of chasing elements of the
anti-Ankara PKK, forcing large numbers of Kurdish
citizens of those areas to desert their home
villages, including an air raid that
Kurdish civilians in a village north
of Kurdistan’s Sulaimaniyah city on August 21, 2011.
Since it was established in 1984, the PKK has been
fighting the Turkish state, which still denies the
constitutional existence of Kurds, to establish a
Kurdish state in the south east of the country, sparking a conflict that has claimed some 45,000
But now its aim is the creation an autonomous
and more cultural rights for ethnic Kurds who
constitute the greatest minority in Turkey, numbering more than 20 million. A large Turkey's
Kurdish community openly sympathise with the Kurdish PKK rebels.
PKK's demands included releasing PKK detainees,
lifting the ban on education in Kurdish, paving the
way for an autonomous democrat Kurdish system within
Turkey, reducing pressure on the detained PKK leader
Abdullah Öcalan, stopping military action against
the Kurdish party and recomposing the Turkish
Turkey refuses to recognize its Kurdish population
as a distinct minority. It has allowed some cultural
rights such as limited broadcasts in the Kurdish
language and private Kurdish language courses with
the prodding of the European Union, but Kurdish
politicians say the measures fall short of their
The PKK is considered as 'terrorist' organization by
Ankara, U.S., the PKK continues to be on the
blacklist list in EU despite court ruling which
overturned a decision
to place the Kurdish rebel group PKK and its
political wing on the European Union's terror list.
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