Peace mother Oruc: I was left breathless once again

Lütfiye Oruç fought for 20 years and managed to get a hold of the bodies of 2 of her children and 2 other relatives, who she buried in the Garzan Cemetery. Oruç said, “I was left breathless once again,” and asked why the bodies had been unearthed.

267 bodies have been unearthed from the Garzan Cemetery in the Upper Ölek (Oleka Jor) village in Bitlis without the knowledge of the families and sent to the Istanbul Forensic Medicine Institution (ATK), then the cemetery was completely torn down, which has stirred up the pain of families once again. Bodies removed from the cemetery were mostly people buried in mass graves in the 1990’s, which multiplied the pain. Lütfiye Oruç (90) has fought for a long time to find the bodies of 2 of her children and 2 nephews she lost years ago, and protested the unearthing of bodies she managed to find and give a proper burial to by saying, “I was left breathless once again.”


Lütfiye Oruç’s first son Etem Oruç joined the PKK in 1989, her daughter Şadiye Oruç joined in the 1990’s along with 3 of her cousins and the youngest son Sertip Oruç joined in 1993. Etem and Şadiye lost their lives in 1993, while Sertip lost his life in 2008. Lütfiye Oruç couldn’t get a hold of the bodies until 2013, and fought to find the bodies of her 3 children for 20 years. She found Şadiye and Etem’s bodies in 2013, but the body of Sertip who is said to have lost his life on the Iranian border is still missing.


With the construction of the cemetery in Garzan between 2013 and 2014, Lütfiye Oruç brought the body of her eldest son Etem to Bitlis first, then found Şadiye and two of her cousins in a village in Eruh, Siirt and buried them in the same cemetery. Oruç has spent most of her life in migration, poverty and the search for her children. She is having troubles because of her illnesses. Oruç said she can’t abandon her village which she tolerated a lot of suffering for and that she visits their home there with every chance she gets: “The first pain I can’t forget was what they put us through in that village. I relive the same pain every time I visit the village, but I can’t stop going. I would suffocate if I didn’t go.”


Oruç said her pain has multiplied and continued: “I can’t remember anything like before. How can a person endure so much pain and still stand, that is the real surprise. I have more than my two children in that cemetery, I have 4 graves. When my daughter Şadiye went, she joined along with her 3 cousins. Years later, we found the bodies of Şadiye and two of her cousins in a village in Siirt’s Eruh district and brought them to Bitlis to be buried in the Garzan cemetery. All four are my children. Before they destroyed the cemetery, at least I could go speak to them and cry by their graves. Now I don’t even have that. Before when the cemetery was damaged we went there, and I saw that the grave stones had been broken. I just heard that the bodies were unearthed. They were all people who lost their lives in the 1990’s. When we found the bodies of our children, there were only bones left. Now I ask once again, why did they unearth those bones? As a mother, I expect an answer to this question. Now my heart aches, I have been left breathless once again. The only thing I wanted was to have a place that I could visit, but that was deemed too much.”

The Oruç family stated that they will appeal with the Human Rights Association (İHD) and the prosecutor’s office to receive their bodies.