Human rights organizations have taken the decision to act in cooperation to establish a ‘Foundation for the Investigation of Mass Graves’ under the supervision of the Human Rights Association (İHD). The work to discover mass graves will be carried out according to periods, such as the 1915 Armenian Genocide, Kurdish rebellions after 1925, and the Kurdish War.
The recent history of Turkey is also a history of massacres. Thousands of people remain buried, and unaccounted for, their identities are unknown, and in some cases, even when they were massacred. Following the 1915 Genocide, and the Kurdish War that intensified in the 1990s, many excavations have unearthed bones. Calls have been made, prosecutors have been summoned, however, the state has taken no concrete step to deal with this issue. The few inquests carried out by prosecutors have yielded no results.
The reality of mass graves has been on the agenda of human rights organizations for many years. The Diyarbakır Branch of the Human Rights Association (İHD) in particular has for a long time carried out work to determine the locations of mass graves. The association has prepared a map of the locations it has managed to determine. According to the report released on 16 December 2014, Tuesday, 348 mass graves contain the remains of 4 thousand 201 people. The report does not include data on the 1915 Genocide.
Human Rights Organization Join Forces
Various human rights organizations operating in Turkey carry out work on mass graves. Human rights organizations have now taken the decision to join forces on the issue, and will establish a ‘Foundation for the Investigation of Mass Graves’. The preparatory work for the establishment of the foundation is almost complete. Human rights organizations including the Human Rights Foundation of Turkey and the Truth Justice Memory Centre support the project.
İHD Diyarbakır Branch Chair Raci Bilici stated that the foundation would be established soon, and added: “İHD has to work with restricted means. We are under both material and human resources constraints. We have only been able to focus on applications made to our association for a while now. The work on mass graves requires more material and human resources. Therefore, a separate foundation needs to be established, and a study that can also receive scientific support needs to be carried out.”
Bilici explained that the work to discover mass graves would be carried out according to periods, such as the 1915 Armenian Genocide, Kurdish rebellions after 1925, and the Kurdish War.
348 mass grave sites located
According to the updated İHD Diyarbakır Branch mass graves report, there are 348 exhumed and unexhumed mass graves in Turkey, containing the remains of 4 thousand 201 people. According to the report, the cities in which most mass graves are located are Diyarbakır, Siirt, Bitlis, Hakkari and Bingöl. The ‘Mass Grave Map’ prepared by İHD focuses on the period when the Kurdish War intensified. The report also draws attention to the fact that the state has taken no concrete step regarding the issue despite repeated campaigns, calls and criminal complaints.
A DNA Bank must be established
In its report, İHD also issued a call to prosecutors to take action regarding the forcibly disappeared. İHD also demanded that military and civilian authorities to make public the documents they have in hand, that the graves be opened following preliminary work carried out according to those documents and data, and that the identities of the forcibly disappeared be determined through a DNA Bank that must be established. The report continued: “It is high time for Turkey to face the reality of mass graves in the region. Authorities must take action at once for the opening of mass graves.”
The İHD report also made a call for the establishment of a Truth Commission, and drew attention to international standards: “The search for the forcibly disappeared and the exhumation of graves must be carried out according to the Minnesota Autopsy Protocol and international standards pertaining to the exhumation of graves. The careless exhumation of graves using heavy machinery that leads to the destruction or loss of the remains of the forcibly disappeared must be prevented.”