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December 16, 2009
Turkey’s Kurds seek justice for unsolved murders

Turkey’s longstanding conflict between ethnic Kurdish minority and the Turkish government flared this weekend after demonstrations erupted when the high court outlawed the main Kurdish political party.

The Kurds see themselves as an oppressed minority, while the Turkish government sees many of them as dangerous separatists.

Correspondent Gizem Yarbil and producer Bryan Myers recently traveled to the Kurdish enclave of Diyarbakir in eastern Turkey for a closer look at the allegations that the Turkish government had engaged in a so-called “dirty war” against the Kurds. Gizem writes about how the ruling threatens reconciliation between Turks and Kurds.

Photos and interview of Abdulkadir Aygan is courtesy of Hakan Akcura of the blog Open Flux.

For more Worldfocus coverage of Turkey, visit our extended coverage page: Turkey between East and West.




[…] Born in Turkey, Worldfocus producer Gizem Yarbil recently reported, along with Bryan Myers, the Signature video Turkey’s Kurds Seek Justice for Unsolved Murders. […]


[…] at Worldfocus and recently reported, along with Bryan Myers, the Worldfocus signature video Turkey’s Kurds Seek Justice for Unsolved Murders. Gizem grew up in Turkey and writes of her experiences covering the story of Kurdish grievances, […]


[…] Turkey’s Kurds seek justice for unsolved murders 15 12 2009 This feature story aired on the international news program Worldfocus which airs on PBS. […]


All of this is a bunch of conspiracy theories and speculation. Can you backup the allegations here with solid proof ? *dead silence*


Thank you for clearing some of the questions in my mind.But you can not talk about questionable paramilitary group without mentioning PKK.If PKK did not kill 35 000 people,destroy property,wound,burn people since 1984 there would be no reason for a group like that. Every action has a reaction.If you listen your own story it sounds like Turkey decided to kill some innocent people out of the blue.Please give complete story to help people to understand why all the problems started without blaming only one side(Turkey).Some people think Kurds had a country of their own.Kurds never had a country.They are Turkish citizen and have equal opportunity for everything just like everyone else.


Gizem, the mainstream Turkish media,including CNN Turk, also usually talk about the actions of the terrorist organization whenever they talk about Jitem. And I understand you made several reports on the region including the closure of the political party. But, why haven’t you done a story about the actions of the PKK and the damage that it is giving to the innocent people? You are trying to find the facts/truth about the conflict. But you are only looking at the actions of the government. Put another way, if PKK was not there, would the actions of the government still be there?


Thank you for your comment Sue. We have requested interviews with the Justice Department, the prosecutors following the cases of the disappeared people, the Gendarmerie in the southeast of Turkey and the Turkish military. All of our requests have been turned down. This story is not about the PKK. This story is about the allegations that there has been a paramilitary group connected to the Turkish government that engaged in kidnappings and extra-judicial killings in the 90s in southeast Turkey and there is an on-going court case regarding this issue. All the facts and evidence seen in this report has also been reported in mainstream Turkish media.


Gizem your story does not hold water. First you only talk to kurdish people not a single Turkish person or ask any questions to any of Turkish officals.Why not?Good journalism start with unbiased research.You did not do that.Remember nobody is guilty untill it is proven. Do not be a mouthpiece of PKK.Remember how we were involved in invading Iraq.Media never check the facts.When we are chasing terrorist and killing them thousand miles away why Turkey should not have the same right to chase and kill terrorist in its own country?


Kurds are an ethic group of mountain people like the Basque in northern Spain. When we do not allow a people to be themselves by distroying their culture, stealing their homeland, etc., we are guilty narrow-minded and mean actions. Those who do not have compassion for each member of our universal family do not have love for reality either. Such actions by Turkey, Iraq and Iran against the Kruds shows the deep ingnorace and crudeness of Turkish, Iraqi and Iranian societies.


Alican, I have already contacted Gizem. I highly doubt that she will do a story on the Native Americans. Only she can prove me wrong.

But you too seem to dismiss the plight of the real owners of this American land. And naive just like Utku too.

PKK or Jitem or Ergenekon or any other organization that does not care about lives about the innocent people should be prosecuted. Yet,making stories about Jitem should not be used as an excuse to hit the government of Turkey. Or put in another words, if Gizem really cares about the human rights, she should do stories about the atrocities of PKK along with Jitem. If she can’t do a story about the atrocities of PKK and just the Jitem, then she risks of being allied with PKK. Furthermore, when my grandparents lived in a small city neighboring Ankara and did not have electricity till the early ’80s, they did not go and hit the government and burned public transportation or stoned the shops. And nobody including Gizem made stories of my grandparents who did not have basic government services such as electricity. Turkey has been through such difficulties since the beginning of the century that I think it deserves a break. It does not mean that it should be criticized it it makes human right violations. But, when somebody makes those critiziation, he/she should be fair and consider all the relavant issues. That goes for all of you Gizem,Alican, Matt,Kurdish and Utku.


why are you so obsessed with the Indians? I feel like all your comments are just the same but with different words. If you have an issue, and you seem to have one, contact the Worlds Focus officials and pressure them on making a story about the Indian Genocide. I am sure that Gizem, as a journalist who seems to be interested in minority human rights, would also be very interested to cover that story. A high-five to you if the only thing you got from this story is that people in diyarbakir enjoy their days.
Yes, it is true that PKK is a result of the government’s poor decisions, but Matt your tax dollars were actually also going to the supply of the PKK’s ammo, if i’m not mistaken.


You are dodging my questions. Why do you have hatred towards Turkey? Why the source grapes? (I believe that is called “kuyruk acisi” in Turkish). Why do you not care about the American Indian’s genocide?

And are you that naive to think that there is a single political/governmental organization/party not to use brainwashing of some sort? Take out a dollar bill from your pocket and read “In God We Trust” Finally, the piece by Gizem shows a nice summer day enjoyed by people in Diyarbakir. Look at the picture above. They are enjoying their day at a coffeehouse. I am sure they would not want to come to American Indian concentration camps.


Critic your obsession about American Indians really makes me happy but you have to have carry this passion to the appropriate places. This is not the place!!!
To clarify some issues: You just made my point, thanks! Pledging allegiance to Turkish nationality every school morning is a part of the brainwashing attempt in the education system. By the way I was not on a government scholarship but that does not make any difference, I could probably still criticize any wrongdoings. For Turks there are only whites and blacks, if you criticize Turkey it means you hate it. Well on the contrary I love this land but unfortunately there are a lot of things that I wish were different. Finally I would not like to live in Indian Reservations but most probably a Kurd from a village of Diyarbakir would not mind to move there. It is all relative!


It is also interesting to note that both Utku and Kurdish who made comments below were born in Turkey, pledged allegiance to Turkey every school morning and also were on a Turkish Government scholarship to study higher education overseas. I wonder why the hatred then? Why sour grapes? Would they rather live under the conditions that American Indians live under at concentrations camps called reservations? Or would they like to live like African Americans who mostly have to live in prisons in this country?


hey utku
i was educated not in turkey but in washington dc and chicago. i have a dual degree. i am a united states government employee.
What you got?

have you ever seen under what conditions american indians live ?


As someone born in Turkey, I feel so ashamed when I see these ignorant, brainwashed comments from my countrymen. But that is not their fault, it is simply the `national` education system which does not allow free thinking. And they just come up with the same old rhetoric of `American genocide of Native American`, `Turgut Ozal Kurdish president`, `clean your backyard`, etc. What they miss is that we have to clean our own backyard and allow everyone who wants to help. If we as the citizens of Turkey instead of hiding realities can finally start digging the atrocities made in this land and find who the responsible ideology or group is, we can become a true democratic country. Otherwise we can restore in the beauty of lies which are being told since I do not know when. Turgut Ozal yes indeed had a Kurdish background but he was fine with the `happy is one who can say I am a Turk` ideology, in this sense he was assimilated. There are many Kurds like that but the problem is that some Kurds rightfully do not want to accept this. And those Kurds face brutality in many forms from the state. About other minorities like Jews, Armenians and Greeks living happily and peacefully in Turkey, I just say that it is a big lie. They are ‘tolerated’ as long as they do not demand further rights.
Anyways I think this forum needs to be dedicated to congratulating Gizem Yarbil and Bryan Myers for their brave and insightful coverage. I hope one day this `story` will be picked by the mainstream media and those guilty of these atrocities will be charged accordingly.
Thanks a lot for this piece!!!


It is really good job. From the bottom of my heart congratulations to you all! I really want to say thank you to Gizem Yarbil and producer Bryan Myers. Western media has been ignoring Kurdish issue. Media can play very important role particularly preventing unknown murder in Turkey. IF you publish more news about it, they will kill less people. Turkish military is afraid of western media….Turkish government and Military must apologize from their Kurdish citizens.


Critic, you’re bonkers. I’m gonna bow out. Have fun with your Sephardi friends.



Are you familiar with the Sephardic Jews? They were threatened by the Spanish Kings. If they did not leave the country then they would be killed. Turks accepted them. They live to this day peacefully in Istanbul along with Kurds, Armenians, Greeks. Turkey does not have problems with any of the ethnic groups living there. They live peacefully. I have friends. Jewish Turkish friends. Armenian Turkis friends. Kurdish Turkish friends.


Critic you are crazy. I will say it was a great injustice carried out by the colonists against the Native Americans; I’m also half Jewish, but I would never hold German people who live now responsible for the fact that the Nazis wiped out large parts of my family.

It seems to me only someone who is slightly mad can hold people who live now responsible for the crimes of their genetic ancestors. Think about what you are saying, and seek help.


To Matt,
Has the United States ever had an American Indian President? Turkey did. Turkish Prime Minister and President Turgut Ozal actually has Kurdish origins. So, this is a concrete evidence that there Kurdish origin people in Turkey has all the freedom and all the necessary resources to excel in every level of social and political life. On the other hand, American Indians in this country live in reservations that I call “concentration camps”

Matt, where is your American Indian president to show that America is clean and can make judggments on Turkey?

First clean your back yard. Then you have a right to talk and claim other people’s backyards are dirty.

If your backyard is dirty, you have a job of cleaning your backyard first.


To Matt,
The essence of the report by Gizem Yarbil is simply as “Turkish Forces (be it secret forces) are killing Kurds”. The essence of my argument is that if you agree with her argument, and (it seems that you agree), then where were you and where were your ancestors when American Indians were wiped out? If your ancestors and if you just stood by when the American Indians were the victims of a genocide, then you do not have a right to argue that Turks are killing the Kurds.

First say my ancestors killed the Indians and accept the genocide. Second you say you are sorry for the inhuman conditions that the American Indians live presently.

Then I can give you the number of my best Kurdish friend here in US and hear the real story.

Otherwise you, along with Gizem Yarbil, rist of being member of an intelligence organization or being used by an intelligence organization



I don’t understand why you think anyone if defending the murder of innocents by the PKK. The point is everyone knows about this and the group is listed a terrorist organisation by powerful countries and groupings all over the world.

The point is that the Turkish state has also committed disgraceful atrocities and actually killed a mugh higher ratio of Kurdish civilians than Turks killed by the PKK.

Both forms of violence are wrong. You can be against both. Although with all armed resistance its more telling to actually look at the grievances, which in the case of the Kurdish population of Turkey are legitimate.

You cannot deny a peoples right to their history, culture and language, and expect them to sit back and accept the brutality.

The British learnt that in India, the Americans in the civil rights movement. Unfortunately the Kurdish movement is violent, but its a symptom, not the cause, which is major Turkish suppression of these people.


To critic:

I don’t really see your logic. I’m not going to defend Andrew Jackson and the colonists who committed the genocide of the Native Americans. But this seems an extremely bizarre argument to make under this article. Essentially you could put that same comment under any article or news story of the whole US press and it would have the same value, why are you decided to come and put your deluded remarks under this piece in particular?

Can you actually argue with the story or is that too taxing?


How about the other side of the story.PKK is a terrorist group who live in Kandil mountains between Iraq and Turkey.They come down to villages who will hide them if not, they kill them too and attack Turkish soldiers,official buildings, teachers,bystanders with roadside bombs, carbombs,automatic weapons.They have no desire to negotiate with the government.They killed 30000 people since 1984.Just last week while Turkish prime minister was talking to pres.Obama they killed another seven soldiers by roadbombs.3 years ago when I was there, they were putting bombs in carbage cans and minibuses in touristic areas(they killed several foreign tourist) to destorey tourism in Turkey.PKK gets their members from cities like Diyarbakir and some mainly kurdish villages.Sometimes even parents do not know that their child has joined PKK.So they report missing . most lost people can be found in the mountains.If government caught them They are in jail because they must have done some of PKK’s dirty war aganist innocent people.Kurdish Party was closed because they were getting their orders from PKK and trying to start a civil war between Turks and kurds who are all turkish citizens and brothers.


Below is a dictionary definition of a “Genocide”. So Matt, don’t you think Cherokees were the victims of a genocide? Matt, why don’t you talk abou the Cherokees?

During the 1800’s, the US government created an “Indian Territory” in Oklahoma and sent all the eastern Native American tribes to live there. Some tribes willingly agreed to this plan. Other tribes didn’t want to go, and the American army forced them. The Cherokee tribe was one of the largest eastern tribes, and they didn’t want to leave their homeland. The Cherokees were peaceful allies of the Americans, so they asked the Supreme Court for help. The judges decided the Cherokee Indians could stay in their homes. But the President, Andrew Jackson, sent the army to march the Cherokees to Oklahoma anyway. They weren’t prepared for the journey, and it was winter time. Thousands of Cherokee Indians died on the Trail of Tears. Many Native Americans from other tribes died too. It was a terrible time in history.


Matt, what happened to the American Indians in this country? Don’t you think they were the victims of a genocide? Don’t you think, people should clean their backyards before passing judgment on far places like Turkey? Don’t you think Andrew Jackson should have been punished for killing Indians rather than being on a $20 bill?


What a brilliant and brave piece on an issue that really does not get enough attention in the US media. I appreciate how difficult it must be for a Turkish woman to report on the crimes of her own state, especially as unfortunately Turkey has such a high density citizens who refuse to look at their state actions rationally. I salute that bravery.
It’s also worth remembering that there are also brave journalists, human rights activists, academics in a lot worse condition, actually still languishing in Turkey’s jails because the country has not reformed the ultra-reactionary constitution imposed after the coup of 1981. Hopefully AKP can remedy this, although the fascist elite in Turkey almost closed them down not so long ago.
This piece is also very timely because of the shut down of the DTP last week, which was merely the latest in a long line of racist and anti-democratic actions by the Constitutional Court which would be better to be shut down itself.
The was one HUGE HOLE in this report however, which I guess might not be the journalists fault but merely the result of the structural biases of the US media. These atrocities, particularly the ones in the mid to late 1990s which were brutal and atrocious destruction of large parts of the South-East and the clearly of thousands of villages, were all done with US ARMS. Turkey has been the US’s biggest ally in the Middle East after Israel for decades and as the most eastern NATO country a huge asset for American planners.
Bill Clinton was pouring arms into the Turkey military while it was committing the most horrendous atrocities against the Kurdish population. And he can’t claim he didn’t know about it as Human Rights Watch and other global groups were alerting the world to what was happening. I’m not sure why a small mention of this was not germane to the piece. As an American watching this on my television, I think I might be quite interested to know that it was my tax dollars that was paying for these atrocities which were truly dark and awful.
It’s kind of hopeful that certain Turkish people are waking up to this issue. The nationalists and fascists who lie or ignore the atrocities done are actually the ones that will make more bloodshed in Turkey. The PKK are terrorists who kill innocent people, that can never be condoned, but they don’t represent the Kurdish people. The majority of Kurdish people merely want the most basic and elementary of rights which no civilized person can argue with: to be able to practice your own culture and language, and pass to your children your own sense of belonging and identity.
Alican is right that the PKK don’t help the fight for Turkish rights, but you have to look at when their campaign started – in 1984 – they had lived as second class citizens for decades, they were always going to erupt. Personally I think the black struggle in the US is a much better formula for achieving your goals, but understanding why terrorists exist is not the same as condoning the brutal actions that they practice.
The AKP has been much better on this issue than any party so we can hope that this continues. With people like this revealing the uncomfortable truth and giving people a voice who have been marginalised and traduced for so long the process of humanisation can continue and hopefully Turkey can be in peace with itself and with its Kurdish population. It’s going to happen eventually, the question is how long will it take for the Turkish people to disown the freaks and fascists that run their legal and military establishment.


how about reporting about the historical facts about the killing of the American Indians and historical sad story of “Trail of Tears”? Then you would be objective in my eyes. Otherwise, I would say, you are being used by governmental entities and organizations


How about making a program about the “Genocide” of the American Indians in US?


Thanks for your report on this underreported issue.


It is highly important to reveal facts of this kind. Many people are indoctrinated to become prototypes supporting whatever the past ideologies put forward. The people do not know what ‘human rights’ are and those rights have to be provided by the government. Kidnapping, killings, etc. are totally against human rights and these are the failures of the government. Oppression of a specific group is a violation of human rights and the solution to stop terrorism does not lie in fighting back. The solution is to provide necessary means (like education) which lacked before and led oppressed groups to show adverse reactions. Denial and oppression are not relevant if we want a peaceful country.
Thanks for this informative story


I just saw this very interesting video about the PKK.. very surprised to see a woman, it all seems so “normal”(


There is one thing for sure, that is P.K.K is a terrorist group. As a Turkish citizen I believe there is no difference between Turks and Kurds so there is no need for a specific right for a specific group of people. There is a human right for all the Turkish people. We are all under the same flag sharing the same history and culture and very proud of it. Our citizens living on the eastern part of Turkey earn money, some of them have moved to summer resorts and have properties there, run business. People still living on those lands get money from the government and they do not work. They only listen what others say. They do not read or share anything about their ancestors. They never do researh in history. There is a great deal of illiteracy among the citizens living there, thus PKK finds it easy to play on them and with their strategy the TERRORIST GROUP chases those illeterates and handles them in their dirty hands. It is quite natural to fight against those issues and sometimes there has become some unexpected results which I believe every nation has had the same experience in their history.

I have respect for this story It is well done but to be honest you should expand you future interviews with the jitem to understand what is going on on the other side of the mirror.
There are always these kind of stories played against the developing countries. America has to look at herself and realise how she is fair with the human rights:))))


a very pragmatic story, and true story. However P.K.K is a terrorist group, and does not support Kurdish rights.

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