Families of soldiers slain during clashes with the terrorist Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) have been expressing their support for a recent announcement by the government that a new Kurdish initiative will be launched based on further democratization and expanding individual rights and freedoms.
A vivid example of how families of slain soldiers are prepared to bury the hatchet came from Şırnak on Saturday during a meeting between Zeynep Yalçın, the mother of Pvt. Burhan Yalçın, who was killed by the PKK in Tunceli, and Kumri Bilgili, the mother of PKK militant Harfiye Bilgin, who was killed in a clash with security forces. The two women came together in Şırnak in a meeting organized by members of the city council and representatives of civil society organizations. The grieving mothers called for an end to bloodshed and for finding a peaceful solution.
Most families of slain soldiers say they would not like to see anyone else go through what they have suffered with the loss of a son, noting that they are ready to bury their pain inside their hearts for a better future for the country.
Melike Güngör, the mother of Pvt. Fevzi Güngör from Bitlis, who was killed in a fight with the PKK, said: “We don't want any more clashes. We don't want our sons to die.” She shared her story, saying: “My son worked in İstanbul for four years. When he returned home, I sent him to the military without even having spent time with him to make up for all those years. The dead body of my son returned home, while I was hoping I could kiss and hug him when he came back. We don't want our sons to die anymore. Our house has been hit by the fire; I don't want other people to experience the same pain.”
Yavuz Alphan, a former president of the İzmir Martyrs' Families Human Rights and Solidarity Association, said he does not see the issue through a screen of emotions, but with reason and in terms of what is best for the country's future, noting, “If they [the PKK] will lay down their arms, I can bear any sacrifice that we have to make.”
Abdurrezak Binici, the father of a slain soldier, emphasized that he is Kurdish and described the government's democratic initiative as an “effort being made to ensure the unity and territorial integrity of the nation.”
Nurettin Yeşilbağ, who heads the İzmir Martyrs' Families Human Rights and Solidarity Association, said that although he mainly supports the initiative, he is unnerved by the prospects of a general amnesty that might pardon PKK militants. Former chairman Alphan agrees, saying, “Only I can forgive him who killed my child.”
However, the association strongly supports the program, which has promises of peace. “You can't wash blood off with blood, but with water. We have been hurt; we don't want others to be hurt after this,” they say.
İsmail Gökçen, another grieving father of a son lost to a clash between security forces and the PKK, said: “We have lived together for centuries with the Kurds, the Laz and the Circassians. We don't know what this Kurdish initiative entails, but we are against any plan that might save [jailed PKK leader] Abdullah Öcalan. Our problem is not with our Kurdish brothers and sisters, but with Öcalan and his lot.”
Ahmet Büyükburç, himself a Kurd, currently heads the Diyarbakır Martyrs' Families Association as well as the Yurt-Sav Martyrs' and Veterans' Families Association. Büyükburç said: “If there is going to be a Kurdish initiative, all the teachers and public servants serving in the [southeastern] region should be replaced.” Büyükburç noted that some poverty and terror stricken cities in the predominantly Kurdish East and Southeast have always been treated as a place of exile for government employees. Büyükburç said this has led to some public officials being condescending to the locals.
Van Martyrs' and Veterans' Families Association President Ahmet Baki, speaking as someone who has lost a brother to the southeastern conflict, says he knows the pain suffered in the region very well. Baki's brother İsa was killed on July 4, 1995, by a rocket fired by the terrorist PKK in the village of Yukarı Kayalar, located in Şemdinli, Hakkari. “What I want is for no other parent or family to go through what I have been through. The bloodshed has to stop,” he said.
Kenan Şehitoğlu, head of the Siirt Martyrs' and Veterans' Association, has suffered from PKK terrorism more than most. He lost 11 members of his family to the conflict. Nowadays, he emphasizes that he and his association support the government's Kurdish initiative, but notes that steps to be taken should be concrete and permanent. Şehitoğlu also says that the Kurdish population in the region does not have any problems and that the problem would be solved automatically if the PKK could be taken out of the picture.