Tim Lowell
Dec 19 2017

The death of a teenager

A man whose 15-year-old younger brother disappeared for more than three years only to die before his family was able to see him again described how people had shunned their family assuming his brother had joined a Kurdish militant group.

“He left the house saying he was going to school one day and we never heard from him again,” İlhan Araç said.

“We filed a missing person application at the police station and for more than three years we had no news from him.”

Murat was a very quiet boy who spent a lot of time on the computer and rarely left the house, İlhan Araç said, adding that on days when there was no school his brother would spend time with him at the car showroom he owned.

Then on Friday the gendarmes phoned the family and put Murat onto the phone to their father. His voice had changed so much that they asked for a picture for confirmation, and they set off on the long journey from Ceylanpınar in Turkey’s rural southeast to the district of Gazipaşa in Antalya in the country’s south, arriving at 3 a.m..

But by the time they arrived, Murat was no longer with the gendarmes: they told the family to go and identify his body at the morgue in central Antalya.

At 11 a.m. they let the family into the morgue.

“And I looked, and I said ‘yes, this boy is my brother’.”

“On his head there were the marks of 16 or 17 stitches; his right eye was bruised and there was blood coming out of his ears and nose,” Araç said.

“His teeth were broken.”

Ahval saw a picture of the body from another source.

The police told him that Murat had been giving a statement on the third floor of the police station and had suddenly jumped off of the balcony to his death.

“He needed to have a lawyer whether he wanted one or not,” Ayça Acar Başaran, a lawyer working for the pro-Kurdish opposition Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), told Ahval.

“Someone who has been arrested for (terror) organisation membership cannot have their statement taken without a lawyer. That is a legal obligation,” she said.

Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu would later tell parliament that the separatist Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) had ordered its fighters to commit suicide if captured.

The PKK has been fighting a bloody conflict intermittently since 1984 in the hope of the mainly Kurdish southeast someday seceding from Turkey.

Once the body was back in Ceylanpınar, the family was shunned by much of society.

Local authorities would not provide the usual hearse or tent for condolence visits because they had judged Murat to be a PKK militant.

“But there was nothing official to say that he was,” Araç told Ahval.

If public servants had shared the family’s grief in any way, he said, they would have been forced out of their jobs.

No lawyer had dared come to the funeral, Başaran said, but some had agreed to take on the case.

She said that in another recent case in the western province of Muğla, authorities had recently begun an investigation into a lawyer who had suggested that the state had executed her client.

Araç said authorities had in the past looked for reasons to penalise businesses and raid the family homes of those whose relations were assumed to have been PKK militants.

“But we did not see or hear of my brother having any ties to that group and we do not know, and despite this they would neither give us a hearse nor a tent for condolences,” Araç said.

“In the end, we reported him lost and we did not hear of him for years.”