The crimes of Şerali Dereli

The date is October 29, in the Duranlar (Awyan) village in the southeast’s Yüksekova, Hakkari. It’s around six in the afternoon. Şerali Dereli leaves his house to tend to his horses like he does every day. His health has not been good, so he barely goes outside for anything else. The mare and its young foal need walking every day. Every evening, Dereli takes them out and puts them back, at the same time every day. The barn is 50 metres from the house.

On this October 29, bullets rain down on Şerali Dereli, and his mare, and his mare’s foal. They all die on the lands where they were born, by their home, in their own village.

His son Ali Dereli told their story to the Kurdish news agency Mezopotamya:

“After my father left, before the clock struck 18:30, we heard gunshots. My mother, sister and cousins went outside to see where the shots had come from. The minute we stepped outside, soldiers came to our door. We asked them what had happened, and they asked us what business we had there. We said we heard gunshots. They told us to go into the house. We asked them what happened. They said there was an incident, and that a soldier was wounded. They said they were going to retrieve the soldier. We saw an ambulance come.

We were worried when we saw the ambulance. We tried to go to the scene. A major came and said, ‘You will see the might of the Turk, I will burn you, you shot my soldier there, I know who comes and goes here.’ So I asked him why he didn’t catch them if he knew who had been here.

I told the commander that my father was out by the horses and that we were concerned. I said I wanted to go with him, my father could have been spooked by gunshots. He said no. He asked me what my father was doing there. While we talked, soldiers formed a human barrier around us. Our relatives from other villages came by to help us. With their help we got past the soldiers and went to the scene of the incident.

We got to the horse. We saw it was killed. But my father wasn’t there. We had heard shouting at the time too, somebody had said, ‘Stop, calm down.’ Then we heard something from higher up the hill. We went there, and saw my father bloodied on the ground. Soldiers surrounded him, and they didn’t let us look. My father had been shot where the horse had been killed, but they carried him up, just so they could slander him and say he had been smuggling.”

Slander him they did. The Hakkari Governorate issued a statement days later, saying the incident happened during an operation against a large group of narcotraffickers.

The Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) spoke about Şerali Dereli’s death in parliament. An argument broke out in the general session, where ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) deputy Cahit Özkan said the following, noting that Dereli had been a smuggler:

“The individual was surveilled by anti-smuggling units on horseback, after he was spotted out in the country with the horses. He refused to answer to a warning, so the units intervened and it was seen that the person in question lost his life.”

Pro-government media went further and made Dereli a drug mule. Sabah newspaper ran the headline “HDP support for drug mule” when HDP deputies attended Dereli’s wake. Without a crime scene investigation, or an investigation at all, isn’t it interesting how sure the governor, the deputy and the media were of what happened?

This was not the first death in the Dereli family. In 1983, then-19-year old Abdülhalit Dereli, Şerali’s brother, was also killed by soldiers. If the soldiers who killed Abdülhalit had not been protected, if they were given the penalty they deserved, probably Abdülhalit’s little brother Şerali would not have died 37 years later. Impunity for killing Kurds has a long history in this country. Kurdish lives are robbed of their worth. Violence against the Kurd is legitimised.

Deputies, the governor, the media, all work together to rationalise the killing of a Kurdish villager. Before the incident is investigated, before the way Şerali Dereli died is brought to light, they say he was smuggling, that he was a drug mule. They can say these things. Let’s say Dereli was a smuggler, where is the law that says smuggling is punished by death?

There is also the important possibility that those who throw around such accusations against a man who was silenced forever in death have never thought of; maybe so the last modicum of conscience they have doesn’t wither away: Maybe Şerali Dereli was innocent.

The opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Ahval.