Human bones found in mass grave in Mardin sent to Istanbul

The human bones that have been discovered in Dargeçit, Mardin have been sent to Istanbul for examination.

Residents of the Akyol village in Mardin’s Dargeçit district have discovered a mass grave containing the remains of dozens of people in a cave in the Gulbiş hamlet. The bones are believed to be of Kurdish civilians who were abducted and then murdered by JITEM (Turkish gendarmerie intelligence service) during the 90’s.

Relatives of victims of ‘unidentified murders’ living in the region have filed a petition to Dargeçit Prosecutor’s Office to shed light on the remains found by the people. Turkish soldiers and lawyers from the Mardin Branch of Human Rights Association (IHD) went to the cave for an examination and the bones have been sent to the Forensic Medicine Institute of Istanbul for an examination.

Erdal Kuzu, one of the lawyers dealing with the ‘Dargeçit JITEM’ case said; “The bones will be examined. We have applied to Dargeçit Prosecutor’s Office to find out whether the bones contain DNA samples of those killed in the 90’s.”

Stories of missing bodies and mass graves can be read as a brief history of the Kurds, whom Turkey has perceived as a supposed threat to its unrestricted power, at least since the founding of the state. Although death has always been an elementary part of the Kurdish liberation struggle, always marked by a cycle of resistance and repression, Kurds not only died in the struggle against a life inhumane to human beings, they were also denied a dignified death and just as dignified burial. Especially in the 1990s, when the dirty war of the Turkish state against the PKK was particularly bloody, thousands of people disappeared - villagers, journalists, politicians, human rights activists.

Up to 17,000 people "disappeared"

It is estimated that up to 17,000 were "disappeared" by "unknown perpetrators" during this dark period, buried in mass graves, caves or in disused industrial plants, thrown on rubbish dumps, sunk in well shafts and acid pits or, as in Argentina, disposed of by being dropped from military helicopters. Often they had been arrested at home by the police or the army, or they had been summoned to the local police station for a "statement", or they had been detained during a routine street check by the military. This is often the last thing their relatives know about the whereabouts of the missing persons. Most of the "murders of unknown perpetrators" can be attributed to JITEM. This is the name for the informal secret service of the Turkish military police, which is responsible for at least four fifths of the unsolved murders in Northern Kurdistan and whose existence was denied by the state for years.

In the case of the uncovered skeletons in Dargeçit, too, it is assumed that they are victims of JITEM. The site is located only a few hundred meters from the village of Altınoluk, where Irfan Yakut lives. There he saw his father for the last time 27 years ago. Yahya Yakut rejected the village guard system and refused to stand up for the interests of the Turkish state in Kurdistan. As a result, he was targeted by the paramilitary and was threatened with death several times. In September 1993, Yahya Yakut went to Konya in search of a work. If he had found it, he would have brought his family along. But Yahya Yakut never arrived in Konya. Already in Midyat, a district of Mardin, the minibus in which he was travelling was stopped. A group of men who had covered their faces with snow masks dragged him out of the vehicle. Since then, he has been missing.

Not the first mass grave in Dargeçit

"Especially as the son of a missing person, it is particularly important to me that the fate of those killed, whose remains have now been found, be clarified. Many people in the region know my father's story. That is why I was informed immediately after the discovery of the mass grave," Irfan Yakut told ANF. "I visited the site promptly and took photographs. I counted 30 skulls, probably more are lying there. A great many people disappeared in Dargeçit in the 1990s. It is not the first mass grave found here."

In 2011, the Human Rights Association IHD drew a map with 253 sites of remains of 3,248 missing persons who had been found in 21 Kurdish cities until then. Among those dead were many PKK guerrilla fighters who were killed during armed conflicts and after capture by the Turkish army. The fate of most of these people has not been clarified until today.

Mass graves - a reality of the genocidal campaign against the Kurds in Turkey

Mass graves established themselves early on in Turkey as a technique of unrestricted rule in the war against the Kurds and their liberation struggle. In 1925, just two years after the foundation of the Turkish Republic, the cleric Sheikh Said (Şêx Seîdê Pîran) and 47 companions who had led an uprising against the violent policies of the Turkish state were executed in Amed (Diyarbakır) and buried in an anonymous mass grave. Twelve years later, Seyîd Riza, the main spiritual and tribal leader of the rebellion in Dersim, his son Resik Hüseyin and five of his friends in Elazığ were also executed and buried in a mass grave whose location remains a mystery, as in the case of Sheikh Said.

Mother hit by armored car

Irfan Yakut suffered another stroke of fate in 2018 when his mother Süphiye Yakut was hit by a Turkish armored vehicle while talking to neighbors in front of her house in Dargeçit. She was seriously injured and suffered various broken bones. She has been severely disabled and not recovered since the accident.