Turkan Elci: "Tahir Elci's name is not a name that divides ..."
Turkan Elci: "Tahir Elci's name is not a name that divides, a name that arouses hatred and enmity in society"
Seven years have passed since the assassination of Tahir Elci, the former president of the Diyarbakir Bar Association. In these seven years, human rights defenders as well as his family have persisted in their fight for justice.
Tahir Elci made a statement on November 28, 2015 in front of the four-legged minaret in Sur, Diyarbakir, which was damaged in the clashes, and said, "We do not want weapons, conflicts, operations in this common place of humanity, in this historical and ancient region, which was the cradle and home of many civilizations. We want wars, conflicts, weapons and operations to be kept away from this area." And minutes later he was killed by a bullet to the head.
"TAHIR ELCI'S NAME IS NOT A NAME THAT AROUSES HATRED AND ENMITY IN SOCIETY"
We hear his wife Turkan Elci speak about her husband Tahir Elci on the seventh anniversary of his death.
She says that Tahir Elci's death had a significant impact on Turkish society and that the echoes of his courageous and honest voice, which stood against war for the good and peace of society, continue to this day. Noting that society has often been gracious to those who have sacrificed for it, Turkan Elci says that she can feel the power of that unifying voice against violence more and more today, and continues as follows.
"Although seven years have passed, as if he was killed yesterday, people remember him and his court case continues to receive support. It is not only Kurds who offer this support. For example, presidents of bar associations and fellow lawyers from all over Turkey have offered their support for our struggle for justice, including our recent hearing. Tahir Elci's name is not a name that divides, a name that arouses hatred and enmity in society. His demands were in line with the demands of society, namely the vision of a dignified life and a transparent society in which the rule of law is enforced, where victims receive justice and peace is restored."
"THERE IS A RESTLESSNESS IN THE MOOD OF SOCIETY"
Although seven years have passed since Tahir Elci's death, sometimes it feels like it was yesterday, and sometimes like a very long time has passed, Turkan Elci says, continuing:
"The perception of time can vary depending on your state of mind. For example, when I walk down the street where I left Tahir the morning of the murder, I remember it as if it were yesterday. On the other hand, those seven years feel much longer because of the social events we have been through."
Observing that there is a restlessness that can be easily detected in the mood of society, Elçi asks, "Isn't the increase in the number of people who want to live in other countries an indication of this restlessness?" before adding that it is hurtful that people want to leave the country where they were born and raised:
"I wish we had spent all these seven years in which everyone felt free, in which there were no rights violations, in which there were no security problems."
"THE DELETION OF THE TWELVE-SECOND CAMERA FOOTAGE FROM THE MOMENT OF THE SHOOTING IS A MYSTERY IN ITSELF"
Turkan Elci, who talked about her experiences in the courtrooms for the past seven years, stresses that the indictment was issued after almost four and a half years and that a rigged trial had begun with a forged indictment. "We did not desist from trying to make our voices heard during the hearings, which were rather for the sake of appearances," Elci says, stressing that most of their motions that could move the case forward were denied:
"While there are countless examples today of people being arrested for a post on social media, for example, our request that the defendants in such an important murder case be detained pending trial was denied. Even our request that the defendants be present in person at the hearing was denied. The court's unwillingness to address the areas left incomplete in the investigation phase that would deepen the course of the case is evident. For example, the deletion of the twelve-second camera footage from the moment of the shooting is a mystery in itself.
"THE PRESIDING JUDGE LEFT THE COURTROOM DURING THE LAST HEARING"
Turkan Elci points out that the court, which responded to such requests by rejecting them, also seems to be struggling and under pressure, and that in the previous hearings they had requested the recusal of the judge because they doubted his impartiality and independence, which was also rejected, and reminds us that the presiding judge left the courtroom during the last hearing on November 23.
She points out that it is usually the lawyers who leave the courtroom, and suggests that with this incident it has become a little clearer that it will not be easy to bear the burden of this heavily charged murder case. Elci states that the panel of judges found the solution to dismiss the guilt of a dark murder by postponing the hearing until July, some eight months later, and that it is not difficult to assume that the course of the trial will go in the direction of impunity.
"IT HAD BEEN DECIDED THAT AHMET DAVUTOGLU WOULD BE HEARD AS A WITNESS, BUT THEN THIS DECISION WAS ABRUPTLY REVERSED"
Reminding that on the previous hearing before the one on November 23rd, it had been decided that Ahmet Davutoglu would be heard as a witness, but then this decision was abruptly reversed, Turkan Elci continues:
"It is actually not very difficult to imagine why the decision was reversed. They should have figured that the statements of the then prime minister who presided over a police and National Intelligence Organization that defined Tahir Elci's murder as an assassination would undoubtedly have an impact on the course of the trial. It is as if they had decided that what Ahmet Davutoglu will say they already know."
The legacy of his dream of a peaceful world
Turkan Elci, who founded the Tahir Elci Human Rights Foundation after the death of her husband, recalls that the foundation was established on the legacy of a man of law who dreamed of a peaceful world against all forms of violence and summarizes the foundation's goals as follows:
"Therefore, we also have red lines, sensitivities and efforts in this direction. Our Foundation is an important non-governmental organization guided by the fundamental principles of human rights. It works in the areas of discrimination, marginalization, restriction of freedom of expression, and combating the culture of impunity. We also place special emphasis on our rights advocacy training programs."
SHE WAS STUDYING LAW WHEN ELCI WAS KILLED
After working as a teacher for many years, Turkan Elci decided to become a lawyer. Although it is generally believed that she began studying law and became a lawyer after Tahir Elci's murder, Turkan Elci was actually in her second year of law school when Tahir Elci was killed. After the incident, she was unable to continue her studies. A year after she quit both her teaching and her studies, she returned to law school and finished her degree. Elci registered with the Diyarbakir Bar Association and began practicing law. She emphasizes that her activities are mainly focused on literature and that literature is indispensable in her life.
"IT IS A GREAT CHALLENGE TO WORK ON THE MURDER CASE OF A SPOUSE AS A LAWYER"
We ask Turkan Elci if she was involved with the case as a lawyer in addition to as a family member:
"It is a great challenge to work on the murder case of a spouse as a lawyer. Thanks to our lawyer friends, whom I can never repay, they have the necessary legal experience and knowledge of the case, and whether I contribute to the case or not won't change anything. I can say that the weight and pressure of a case in which you are a victim precludes contributing to it as an attorney.
THE INVESTIGATION WAS COMPLETED FIVE YEARS AFTER THE INCIDENT
The investigation was completed five years after the incident, and the 41-page indictment was issued on March 20, 2020, by the 10th Judicial District Court of Diyarbakir. The crime scene investigation was conducted on March 17, 2016, about five months after Tahir Elci's death. The indictment revealed that surveillance cameras on the street where the murder occurred did not record the moment Elci was shot. There was a 12-second break in the police camera footage. The UK-based Forensic Architecture organization, which prepared a report on the bullet that killed Tahir Elci, concluded that Elci was killed by a bullet from the gun of one of the three police officers at the crime scene.
A FIRST: PANEL OF JUDGES LEAVES THE HEARING ROOM
The fifth hearing in the murder trial of Tahir Elci took place in Diyarbakır on November 23. For the first time, the presiding judge left the courtroom along with the panel of judges while the lawyer spoke. As the lawyers were waiting, the bailiff entered the courtroom and announced that the panel would not return to the courtroom and that the hearing was definitely over. However, the panel of judges is legally required to conclude a hearing and announce its tentative decision and notify the parties of this tentative decision in the courtroom.
WHO WAS TAHIR ELCI?
He was born in 1966 in Cizre, Sirnak, into a Kurdish family. He completed his primary, secondary and high school education in Cizre before graduating from the Law Faculty of Dicle University in 1991. From 1992, Mr. Elci worked as a freelance lawyer in Diyarbakir until his death. Between 1998 and 2006, he studied international criminal law and procedure at the Academy of European Law and participated as a speaker in numerous national and international conferences. Tahir Elci was elected President of the Diyarbakir Bar Association in November 2012 and re-elected at the 2014 Ordinary General Assembly. On November 28, 2015, he was shot dead while calling for peace in front of the Four Legged Minaret in Diyarbakır. Elci was married and had two children.