Body of Mehmet Zeki Çelebi sent to Van

The body of restaurant owner Mehmet Zeki Çelebi, who was killed last week by suspected MIT assassins in the southern Kurdish city of Sulaymaniyah, has been sent off to his hometown of Van.

With great sympathy, the body of Mehmet Zeki Çelebi was taken from Sulaymaniyah to Northern Kurdistan on Monday. The funeral of the political refugee is to take place in his native town of Van, relatives announced.

Mehmet Zeki Çelebi left his homeland twelve years ago due to persecution by the state and has since lived as a refugee in southern Kurdistan (northern Iraq). Last Tuesday, while leaving his restaurant "Deniz" on Bextiyari Street in Sulaymaniyah, he was shot and seriously injured by two unknown persons on a motorcycle. A day later, he succumbed to his gunshot wounds in hospital.

For the farewell of Mehmet Zeki Çelebi, a large crowd gathered on Bextiyari Street. In a convoy, the body was escorted by family members, civil society activists, and political and artistic figures to the "Ahmad Haji Ali" mosque, where a requiem washing was performed. Before the imam said the farewell prayer, speeches were held.

"Our enemies should know that the struggle fought by our friend Mehmet Zeki Çelebi against the annihilation of our people will be continued by his companions. Hevalê Mehmet fought for the freedom of the Kurds and democracy. Our solidarity is with his ideals. Massacres and assassinations cannot break our will," said Müslüm Kaplan. The exiled politician is a member of the HDP and heads the Association of Laborers from Mesopotamia (Komeleya Karkerên Mezopotamyayê, KKM) in Sulaymaniyah. The association organizes people who were and are exposed to political persecution in Northern Kurdistan and have been recognized as refugees by the United Nations. Mehmet Zeki Çelebi was also a member of the KKM.

Imam Nadir Ali referred to Mehmet Zeki Çelebi as the "Martyr of Sulaymaniyah." "He saw himself as part of the population of our city and worked for the welfare of the residents. The fact that he was murdered in the middle of the street, in full view of numerous surveillance cameras, and the perpetrators remain unchallenged is a great shame. The government has a responsibility to find the murderers and bring them to justice. If it fails to do so, those responsible for the government will bear a mark of shame on their foreheads for the rest of their lives," the imam said. After other speeches, Mehmet Zeki Çelebi was sent off on his final journey.

The Turkish secret service MIT is suspected of being behind the assassination of Mehmet Zeki Çelebi. He had reported several times about informer recruitment attempts and death threats, also to the press. Shortly after the death of Yasin Bulut, who was also known as Şükrü Serhat and was also murdered in Sulaymaniyah in September last year, Çelebi expressed in a program on the Medya Haber TV channel that he had been contacted "dozens of times" by MIT. "They threaten to do something to our families in order to make us spy. They want to force us to surrender. The enemy is trapped in the mountains of Kurdistan and uses such dirty methods because it realizes that it cannot achieve anything there," Çelebi had stated.