Soldiers "guessed" what jailed 71-year-old Kurdish speaker said in testimony against her

Turkish soldiers involved in an operation against Kurdish militants in Turkey’s eastern province of Erzurum testified that a local family tried to warn the militants, despite not knowing Kurdish, the language the accused family were speaking in at the time, according to information uncovered by the Kurdish news agency Mezopotamya.

In the year 2012 Fatma Güler, a 71-year-old woman from the area, and another younger local woman, Sibel Kılıç, were tending to their herds of livestock on a pasture near the town of Çat when Turkish units arrived in search of militants linked to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

The soldiers say the women alerted PKK fighters in the vicinity to the presence of the soldiers, resulting in a firefight.

The PKK is classified as a terrorist organisation in Turkey, where it has launched several armed uprisings for Kurdish self rule since the 1980s. 

The two women have been charged with “aiding and abetting a terrorist organisation” and “disrupting the unity and integrity of the state”. However, the soldiers’ whose testimony supports the charges have admitted they do not know what the women were saying during the encounter since they do not speak Kurdish.

The six soldiers interviewed in the case reportedly “guessed” that Güle had called out to the militants without understanding what she had said.

One of the soldiers described how an older woman had approached the soldiers, unaware of the nearby militants and speaking loudly in Kurdish. He said she and a younger woman accompanying her had started shouting at the PKK militants and run towards them later when they saw them.

Another of the soldiers said he did not speak Kurdish but understood enough to know Güler had been cursing the soldiers for scaring off her flock. He also said he had understood that Kılıç had shouted a warning to the PKK militants before running towards them, at which point they opened fire on the soldiers.

A third admitted he did not speak Kurdish but said friends in the unit who spoke the language had told him Kılıç had warned the militants while running in their direction.

However, a witness from the local village who was nearby the skirmish when it happened gave a different account of events. The villager said Güler had been anxiously calling to her flock of goats before the shooting started, and when it did, she had approached them complaining she had lost 40 animals.

The witness denied hearing either woman warn the militants of the presence of soldiers.

 Güler and Kılıç were both hit with 5-year prison sentences when the trial finished in 2015.
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