Lice, Twenty Years On - Part Two

Fethi Gümüş, lawyer for victims of the Lice massacre, refers to an intelligence report he says was placed in the file of the DDKO (Revolutionary Eastern Cultural Centres) case ruled at Diyarbakır Military Court in 1971 but was later stamped with a red seal dated 1965 and read "strictly confidential". The lawyer says the report stressed that "Lice district would be the first place to be hit in Diyarbakır in the event of emergence of a Kurdish movement". The document in question becomes more important when considering the remarks that the footnotes of the decree, which had been issued 28 years before the Lice massacre, included warnings such as "planes shall take off considering the turbulences on Lice mountains".

Lice witnessed a bitter tragedy not only during the days of the massacre but also during the legal struggle carried out after it. Not one week later, some 240 lawyers of Diyarbakır Bar Association went to the district and participated in damage assessment works. Right after that, lawyers applied to courts and opened cases on behalf of the victims of the massacre, and sent all documents about the massacre to all governmental and high level institutions. Diyarbakır Bar Association also gave a file consisting of documents about the massacre to Süleyman Demirel, Prime Minister of the time, during his visit to Diyarbakır.

Lice Municipality had also the extent of the damage assessed through a delegation it formed, before which 29 victims of the massacre filed a criminal complaint to the court through their lawyers. Thousands of victims on the other hand avoided going to law due to the fear caused by the massacre, and also the hopelessness of “complaining who to whom”. The cases opened by Turkish courts which remained inconclusive were therewith taken to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in 1995. In order to avoid imposing high compensation penalty on Turkey, the Court suggested that Turkey should come up with a “friendly solution” with the victims of the massacre. Following the Court's suggestion, officials of the term's government had talks with lawyers for victims and reached an agreement on the payment of 10 thousand sterling for each application filed to the Court. In the meantime, four victims refused a “friendly solution”, after which the ECHR acknowledged that Turkey committed a massacre and ruled it to pay 60 billion compensation for each victim that applied to the Court for “violating the right to life”.

The ECHR ruling brought along many other applications filed by thousands of people to lawyers and the IHD (Human Rights Association). Among those filing their applications were also citizens who had previously suffered similar massacres in Şırnak and other districts of Diyarbakır. Receiving the applications filed by thousands of victims, the ECHR sentenced Turkey to pay compensation of 2,400,000 TL, a great amount the Court later avoided and suggested that the Turkish government and victims of the massacre should "come up with a solution among themselves". The government of the time thereupon started works for enabling return to villages and enacted the "Return to Village Law" in 2004 after which the Court rejected all the files on the massacre. Only several out of thousands of files are being held by the Court today.

After the public prosecutor of Malatya re-opened the file on the suspicious death of Dersim Gendarmerie Regiment Commander Albay Kazım Çillioğlu, the specially authorized public prosecutor of Diyarbakır investigating unsolved murders included the file of brigadier general Bahtiyar Aydın's assassination in 1993 in the investigation into the massacre. Hundreds of victims of the Lice massacre were called to give testimony to the anti-terror department of the police directorate. The specially authorized prosecutor also appealed to two people, who were teachers in Lice at the time, for their testimony.

One of the teachers, Mahmut Cantekin, remarked in his testimony that there were no clashes between the army and the PKK in the district on 22 October when -he said- special operation teams and soldiers raked through the district at random. Cantekin denied the news that “terrorists launched a heavy weapon attack against the Gendarmerie Division Command Barrack and the positions of the artillery unit”, stating that brigadier general Bahtiyar Aydın was shot dead a hundred meters away from the school. It is also attention grabbing that there are no PKK members among those registered to have died or wounded in the massacre.

Cantekin told that artillery attacks targeting the district started at 9.20 in the morning, and intensified much more in the next ten minutes with the bullets sprayed from the commando brigade, prison and the police directorate. Cantekin stated that “Panzers (armored police vehicle) were on the street and raining bullets on all houses, workplaces and shops at the centre. As of 10 am, helicopters joined the operation with bombs and antiaircraft bullets, while all houses were in flames and also being targeted by the artillery attacks. The barracks and houses in front of the brigade had all been burned to the ground by 11.45 when Aydın is said to have been killed. There was nobody on the streets but soldiers and police who were killing every person and animal they saw outside.”

No single person was left in 46 villages of the Lice district, and everyone was forced to move to some other places after the massacre. Eight years later, the district governor of Lice, Adem Ünal, reportedly gave a notice , dated 9 September 2001, to the gendarmerie command and village headmen concerning the return to villages. The articles of the notice read that “governor of Lice will accept the applications for returning to villages and anyone will be allowed to go back to the villages adapted for return”, “applications will be made through petitions to be submitted to the district governor's office in order for the well-arrangement of the movement of the return to villages”, “those confirmed to have come back to villages without obtaining permission from the police office and informing it will be called to the police directorate and questioned in order for the determination of the reason why they obtained no permission, and performance of necessary investigations”, “no villagers will be allowed to enter or settle in villages, nor to work in fields without the permission of the gendarmerie commanders until the announcement of the civilian authority decision on the villages approved for returns”.

Lawyer Fethi Gümüş, President of the Diyarbakır Bar Association of the time, remarked that they faced many obstacles after the massacre, and that the government reflected the incident as an act of the PKK but without any concrete evidence proving the PKK involvement in the incident on the reports prepared by the police directorate and the Ministry of Public Works. Stating that people took courage and filed criminal complaints only after the finalization of some cases on the massacre, Gümüş added that “After thousands of people filed a complaint against the massacre in 2001, the government enacted the Return to Village Law in the face of high pecuniary penalties it was supposed to pay to appliers. When the Turkish state enacted this law in 2004, it didn't have enough knowledge about the numerous villages, districts and towns burnt down in Kurdistan. Turkey was in a hurry to enact this law for it had realized that its economy would be shaken by the compensation it was meant to pay to victims.

It has been found out only today that the Lice massacre, which was also officially recognized upon the ECHR ruling, was independent from the assassination of Diyarbakır gendarmerie regional commander brigadier general Bahtiyar Aydın.

The Lice massacre had been planned long ago, proves the intelligence report that was placed in the file of the DDKO (Revolutionary Eastern Cultural Centres) case ruled at Diyarbakır Military Court in 1971 but was later stamped with a red seal dated 1965 and read "strictly confidential" and stressed that "Lice district would be the first place to be hit from the air in Diyarbakır in the event of emergence of a Kurdish movement". Another attention-grabbing point of Lice decree is a footnote which warns that "planes shall take off considering the turbulence on Lice mountains". The report in question becomes more important when considering the fact that Lice massacre was the first practice of the massacres carried out in the early 90's and grounded on this document which had been issued 28 years before.

Gümüş, underlining that the Lice massacre had been planned and organized much earlier, told that "A commission appointed by a commission of the National Intelligence Organization did researches in Kurdistan in 1965. A large part of the reports were completed in this period and a 115-paged report, with a red seal on it reading "strictly confidential" was later placed in the file of the ongoing DDKO case. The report was later taken out of the file upon the proposal by lawyers. I myself read the report which told about the bombing of Lice".

As almost all victims of the massacre have received some material compensation in the last 20 years of the ongoing case, public prosecutor of Diyarbakır announced its ruling on the case at the twentieth anniversary of the massacre. The prosecutor asked for life sentence for retired colonel Eşref Hatipoğlu, commander of the Diyarbakır gendarmerie regiment commander, who led the massacre.

Some of the people the state's report announces dead are; brigadier general Bahtiyar Aydın (witnesses say he was killed by specialist sergeant Yüksel Bayar), specialist sergeant Tekin Alptekin and police soldier Mesut Karçka (who witnesses say died as a result of the fire opened by soldiers), Zana Çakır, Mustafa Çakır, Muhyettin Gülen, Emine Kıraç, Saniye Doğan, Hüseyin Cantürk, Suzan Cantürk, Mizgin Cantürk, Bayram Yıldız, Ali Şanlı, Kudret Ergün, Ali Nurettin Soyer, Kerem Cantürk.

The names of those wounded in the massacre are listed in the state's report as follows; Saniye Altun, Mesuda Yıldız, Zahdi Bingöl, Asiye Canpolat, Zarife Cantürk, Netice Cantürk, Gülistan Canpolat, Gülbin Şaşmaz, Şeyhmus Akkuş, Zekeriya Yılmaz, Tahir Elkıran, Fehmi Aksu, Abdulrezzak Yıldırım, Sadik Güntaş , Asya Baran, Behçet Tektaş, Birgül Şanlı, Asiye Durmaz, Aysun Akgeyik, Derya Koza, Gıyasettin Yağlı, Mehmet Tutak, Çetin Atalay, Mehmet Ali Elçin, İsmet Yıldız, Murat Kardemir (police officer), Kamil Şaşmaz, specialist sergeant Yüksel Bayar (who according to witnesses killed brigadier general Bahtiyar Aydın).

* This article first appeared in DIHA News Agency