Outrage as Turkey buries Kurds without families or funerals

Siyasin Buruntekin fights back tears of anger at how her aunt was fatally shot and then buried by Turkish security forces without the relatives being informed.

After visiting the grave for the first time, the 34-year-old Kurdish woman relates how Ayse Buruntekin went out during the curfew to fetch milk for her baby from the neighbours in Silopi near the three-point border with Syria and Iraq.

She died from a gunshot to the neck. "The police simply buried her without telling the family," her niece says.

A new law that went into force on January 7, as 24-hour curfews were imposed in many Kurdish areas, allows burial without ceremony if the body - even if identified - has not been collected by relatives.

The curfews are part of the army's offensive against the Kurdish Patriotic Revolutionary Youth Movement (YDG-H), which has seized control of parts of cities and towns in south-eastern Turkey.

The aim of the new law is to prevent funerals from becoming a rallying point for supporters of the YDG-H, seen by the government as an offshoot of the banned Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK).

Since the beginning of the offensive in mid-December, dozens of civilians have reportedly lost their lives. Kurds living under conditions of total curfew can hardly collect the bodies of relatives from the morgues.

Siyasin Buruntekin says the police did not even inform the family where her aunt was buried, but people living near the cemetery observed the burial from their homes and passed on the information.

"Erdogan is personally responsible for this," she says, echoing the view of many Kurds that President Recep Tayyip Erdogan should take the blame for the escalation of violence in the region. "I can't see myself as a citizen of this country any more."

The family of Taybet Inan is just as angry. His 57-year-old wife was on her way back home from the neighbours when she was shot in the leg metres from her own front door, says Chalid Inan, 60.

He relates how he threw his wife a rope to drag her onto their property, but without success. "She was alive up to the next day. She called out repeatedly: 'Don't come out, otherwise you will be killed too'," Chalid Inan says.

His brother Abdullah Inan tells how he contacted a member of parliament for the pro-Kurdish HDP opposition party, who arranged an ambulance to pick up the injured woman.

"The police stopped the ambulance at the top of the road," Abdullah Inan says. He then phoned the police. "The police officer asked for the address, and after I gave it to them, the house was fired on."

The woman's body was collected only after eight days. "The police took the body to the morgue," Abdullah Inan says.

He next received a phone call from the police informing the family that Taybet Inan would be buried. During the call, the officer cited the new law.

Eight relatives from a village not under curfew were allowed to attend, but no one from Silopi itself. Not even Taybet Inan's husband could say his final farewell to her.

In the largely Kurdish city of Diyarbakir, Guler Seviktek secured the release of the body of her 25-year-old brother by going on hunger strike for three weeks.

Mesut Seviktek had been fighting for the YDG-H in the city, part of which has been under curfew since December 2, when he was killed on December 23.

"Why won't the state return the body," his sister queried during the hunger strike, alleging that the new law was directed purely against Kurds.

Guler Seviktek said: "They're even frightened of our dead."

Last update: Wed, 27/01/2016 - 15:26

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