A time of cruelty

12-year old Helin Şen was killed on October 12, 2015, in Sur district of Diyarbakır, the largest city in Turkey’s mainly Kurdish southeast. At the time a curfew was declared in six neighborhoods of Sur, due to Turkish security forces’ military operations in southeast Turkey’s urban areas. Helin was shot from a police vehicle, when she went out with her mother to buy bread. Last week, when I talked to her mother, she told me that the police shattered Helin’s grave stone.

I later learned the details from human rights organisations. Helin’s full name was Helin Hasret Şen.

The security forces erased her name “Helin” from the stone, they even used a scrapping machine. They did it because they thought Helin was a code name given to her by the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which has been fighting inside Turkey for more than 30 years.

As much as I understand, the stone broke, when they were scrapping Helin’s name. In other words, without any sign of slothfulness, our state took a scrapping machine, entered in Kurdish people’s graveyard, and erased the name of a 12-year-old girl, who according to the official investigation was killed by the state’s security personnel. Is it possible not to get astonished against such a detailed effort of the state and to the extent of its hatred?

Of course, Helin is not the only case of disrespect against people’s graves. Çekvar Aliş Çubuk was only 15 when he was killed in Sur. He was the student of an english-intensive technical school, he was a beautiful boy. He liked singing loudly. He wanted to be a basketball player. The state did not prosecute those who killed Çekvar, but it was disturbed by his grave stone.

The state again was not lazy. One night, it changed the grave stone reading “Çekvar Aliş Çubuk”, with another reading “Aliş Çubuk”. Similar to Helin, Çekvar was the boy’s name in official records. Çekvar’s family took out the grave stone put by the state, and planted another one with his full name. Don’t you dare! The family’s house was raided. Çekvar’s brother was detained; his sister and another sibling was beaten.

We have been living at a time of cruelty. We come face to face with another example of this cruelty everyday. This is something beyond a vulgar cruelty; those are acts of cruelty that is carefully calculated, planned to the smallest detail…

Last week another cruelty also took my attention, the one against Çağırga family from Cizre. 10-year-old Cemile Çağırga was killed by an armored vehicle in 2015. Her family had to keep Cemile in the freezer for 3 days in very hot weather, since the state officials did not allow them to bury her body because of the curfew.

I guess this cruelty which must be a unique example in world history was not good enough… Cemile’s father Ramazan Çağırga was detained numerous times after her death. He was arrested by court a few days ago. In fact, this was not the first time Çağırga family experienced state violence. In 1993, seven members of the family had been killed because of a mortar fire that had hit their house.

A friend of mine whose husband had to leave the country resigned from her job at the municipality a while ago. In order to get a passport, she needs a document proving her resignation that should be signed by the government appointed mayor. However, she cannot get this document for a long time. Because the state wants to prevent her from going abroad and see her loved ones.

The state uses all its institutions and mechanisms to oppress full force those who raise their voices against injustices. It deliberates, plans, and puts into practice acts of further cruelty, without skipping the smallest detail.

It is not only Kurds that get their share from this cruelty. Hundreds thousands of people are being dismissed from their jobs or detained with no questions asked, ten thousand of people are left to starvation with decrees issued in the middle of the night. Babies are growing up in prisons, people perish in jails charged with unjustified, baseless allegations.

Last week a 16-year old boy, Ali Ölmez, lost his life after being hit by a police vehicle in the southeastern province of Şırnak. Nuran İmir, a deputy of the mainly Kurdish Peoples Democratic Party (HDP) from Şırnak posted a tweet exposing the series of cruel acts Ölmez family has suffered from. It read:

“Egid died in 2013 in Kobane. Macit was hit by F-16 planes in 2015 while he was carrying goods for border trade. Their youngest brother Ali died yesterday after he was hit by a police vehicle.”

He also posted a photo of young Ali’s. I do not want to talk in detail about the mentions İmir received on twitter. Just one example; a twitter user named Cahit Arif (@cahitarif40) proudly wrote:

“The more you give birth, the more you die. As Kurds, you should have less children. Value women. Value children. If you don’t, you will keep on dying like dogs.”

What should I say against this? We are living together with people who describe the death of a 16-year-old as “dying like a dog”. He comfortably says that because he knows that he wont face persecution when he says to Kurds that they are “dying like dogs”. The state not only paves the way for saying such words, in fact it also throws roses on the way to make it more attractive. When those at the top can defame people so comfortably, when the government calls everyone “a terrorist” so easily, the society follows.

But history does not erase those acts. History records not only the state which scrapes the names of its citizens from their grave stones, but also those who says “dogs” to children dying so young, to all of the Kurds. They are the sergeants of this time of cruelty.