Saturday Mothers vow to continue their struggle for justice

Ibrahim Demir and Agit Akipa were arrested in İdil in December 1991 because they demanded an end to the military siege in their village. A day later, their bodies were found covered in signs of torture. The perpetrators were never brought to justice.

At its weekly vigil against "enforced disappearances" in state custody, the Saturday Mothers' Initiative in Istanbul called for justice for Ibrahim Demir and Agit Akipa. Both Kurdish men were arrested 32 years ago by the Turkish gendarmerie (military police) in a village in the İdil district of Şırnak. A day later, their bodies were found in a cave; tied up, blindfolded and with signs of torture. The perpetrators were never brought to justice.

It was the 976th Saturday Mothers' Vigil that has been held on Galatasaray Square in Istanbul's city center since the initiative was founded in 1995. Ibrahim Demir’s daughter Deniz Demir and Agit Akipa’s son Fehim Akipa were among the participants. In their speeches, they condemned the state's unwillingness to face up to its own truth and reveal the murderers of their fathers. "We have been waiting for justice to be served for over three decades," said Demir. The internationally renowned forensic scientist and human rights activist Şebnem Korur Fincancı, who was recently removed from her position as president of the Turkish Medical Association (TTB) by the Turkish judiciary, supported the action.

Gülseren Yoleri, chairwoman of the Istanbul branch of the Human Rights Association (IHD), spoke about the case of the disappearance of Ibrahim Demir (36) and Agit Akipa (39). Both men lived with their families in the village of Xenduk, whose Turkish name is Çukurlu. Akipa was the head of the village. It was in the early 1990s that the Turkish army's "Special War Department" intensively expanded the village guard system as part of its so-called counter-insurgency operations.

"İbrahim Demir, 36, and Agit Akipa, 39, lived in Çukurlu village in the İdil district of Şırnak. Agit Akipa was the village headman. There was a heavy pressure of village guard system on the villagers. The entrance and exit of the village were under military control. The village school was turned into a police station and some villagers' houses were confiscated and soldiers were stationed there. İbrahim Demir and Agit Akipa applied first to the District Governor's Office and then to the Ministry of Interior to have the soldiers evacuate the school and the houses. After the application, the pressure on them increased even more.

On December 12, 1991, İbrahim Demir and Agit Akipa took a tractor with villagers to return home from a condolence service for a political murder victim in Idil. The tractor was stopped on the road by soldiers. İbrahim Demir and Agit Akipa were detained by the commander and soldiers from the Infantry Troop affiliated with the Dargeçit Anıtlı Battalion Command in the Ağaçlı hamlet. The families went to the gendarmerie station and the Commander told them "We have never seen them". A soldier secretly directed the families to 'go to the caves'. The families, together with the villagers, searched the area pointed out by the soldier. On December 13, 1991, the bodies of the disappeared, tortured, tied-up and blindfolded, were found in a cave whose entrance was blocked with stones.

In the investigation launched into the incident, the İdil Chief Public Prosecutor's Office concluded that the First Lieutenant, the Infantry Troop Commander in the Ağaçlı hamlet, and the privates and conscripts involved were suspected of "manslaughter". Thereupon, on December 18, 1991, it sent the file to the District Administrative Board of Dargeçit District Governorship for permission to open an investigation. On May 20, 1992, the District Administrative Board of the Dargeçit District Governorate issued a decision of "bar" and prevented the suspects from being tried.

In 2011, the families applied again to the İdil Chief Public Prosecutor's Office through their lawyer Tahir Elçi. The Prosecutor's Office launched a new investigation and applied to relevant institutions to access the file. However, all institutions reported that they could not find any files, information or documents in their archives. Thereupon, the İdil Chief Public Prosecutor's Office launched an investigation against the Dargeçit District Governorate officials who had lost the file for 'abuse of office'. However, the investigations did not yield any results. In the end, the file was closed on the grounds of statute of limitations. In our 924th week, we once again call out to those who govern the State: stop distancing the country from law and merit with practices that do not take their source from universal law. No matter how many years pass, we will not give up demanding justice for İbrahim Demir and Agit Akipa, for all our missing persons, reminding that the state has to act within the norms of universal law, and we will not give up our place of meeting with our missing persons, Galatasaray, which has been banned for 225 weeks."