On June 9, a regional court in Turkey’s southeastern Gaziantep province ruled on the case of Pakize Hazar, who had been killed when an armoured vehicle ran her over on June 14, 2017.
The court unanimously decided that the prison sentence given to the driver be converted into a juridical fine of 18,200 TL ($ 2,400), which would be paid in 24 instalments. It also rejected further appeals on the merits of the case.
Let’s remember how the 85-years-old had died:
In Lice, a district of Turkey’s largest Kurdish-majority city Diyarbakır, Hazar walked into the post office, leaning on her walking stick. The street was closed to traffic. An armoured vehicle that had been parked until then went into gear, and ran over the elderly woman. She was caught under the front wheel of the vehicle, and tragically died at the scene.
The moment of Hazar’s death was caught on CCTV, and burned into memory. A report by the Lice Gendarmerie Command placed all fault with the deceased woman for being careless and imprudent, while the driver of the vehicle, Sergeant S.K., was shown as 100 percent “impeccable.”
The family objected, and petitioned a second report from the traffic department of the Turkish Forensic Medicine Institute (ATK). This second report, in complete contradiction to the army’s, said S.K. was 100 percent at fault. The officer was detained after the incident, to be later released after giving his statement.
The Lice Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office prepared a single-paragraph indictment against the sergeant, demanding up to six years in prison for causing death by negligence. A court case started and passed judgement in 2018, with S.K. saying he hadn’t seen the woman and pleading not guilty, and the court sentencing him to 1 year and 8 months in prison. It then postponed the sentence, so unless S.K. were to commit another crime, he would not face prison time.
The Hazar family appealed to a higher court, and the sentence was revised as 2 years and 6 months in prison afterwards.
This time, the defendant appealed and the regional court overturned the revised ruling. This was when the prison sentence was converted into monthly payments that would amount to some 30 percent of the national minimum wage.
Pakize Hazar is not the only example.
According to a report by the Diyarbakır chapter of Turkey’s Human Rights Association (İHD), between 2008 and 2018, a total of 63 incidents involving armoured vehicles resulted in the death of 36 civilians, including 16 children and six women, and injury of another 85. All criminal cases ended in impunity. Short prison sentences issued to some army or police officials were mostly converted into fines.
Last month, police officer Ö.Y. was sentenced to 2 years and 1 month in prison for killing brothers Muhammed (7) and Furkan (6) Yıldırım in their sleep when he crashed into their home with an armoured vehicle in the neighbouring Şırnak province. His sentence was converted to a 19,000 lira ($2,500) fine. A higher court upheld both the relatively low fine, and the acquittal of Ö.Y.’s commanding officer for the 2017 incident.
Now, why am I writing all these?
Some people will automatically dismiss the violation of these people’s right to life, since these events took place in Kurdish-majority districts of Lice, Silopi, or Cizre. Others will believe them to be accidents, and never stop to ask why armoured vehicles were always on Kurdish streets and not theirs. They won’t ask why Kurds seem to have a different fate than the rest of the country.
No one will feel shame. It remains to be seen whether the lives of Pakize Hazar and the dozens of Kurds killed under armoured vehicles will matter in Turkey.