Suspicious Deaths of Conscripts Raised in the Parliament

The suspicious death of Ömer Faruk Demirkol, a conscript, at Fevzi Paşa gendarme post in the Islahiye district of the southeast Gaziantep province is raised in the Turkish parliament by Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) Gaziantep MP Mahmut Toğrul in a written question directed to Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu.

Toğrul, in the written question mentions the testimony of the deceased conscript’s mother Fatma Demirkol who charges the local post commander as responsible for his son’s death on Oct. 14.

Referred by MP Mahmut Toğrul, a raged Fatma Demirkol says: “I believe that my son is killed. My son is killed under the roof of the Turkish Army barracks. Soldier is killed by soldier. He was on 10 days leave for health reasons. He calls the post commander before he returns back to duty. And his commander responds: ‘I am waiting you here to strip your flesh from your bones.’ My son comes home says: ‘I am afraid of going back to the post. The commander threatens me.’ I sent my son alive and they brought him back to me inside the shroud.”

The gendarme, Turkey’s rural police body, albeit structurally belonging to Turkish military forces is administered by the Interior Ministry. Turkey does not recognize constientious objection as a civil right and every male Turkish citizen is obliged by law to serve in the army after completing the age of 20. Hence MP Mahmut Toğrul directed his questions to Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu.

Toğrul asked minister Soylu if a prosecution is on the way for the killing of conscript Demirkol; if the “Demirkol family is threatened by unknown persons for their testimonies of their loved one’s death” and directed two other consecutive questions regarding a more general tragedy of “suspicious deaths of incredible numbers of conscripts most of whom are of Kurdish and Alevite origins.”

“Why”, MP Toğrul asked Mr. Soylu “almost all the case files of the suspicious deaths of conscripts in the barracks are closed with the conclusion “suicide” and added “Is it just a coincidence that most of the victims of suspicious deaths in the army are of Kurdish and Alevite origins.”

It is highly likely that MP Toğrul’s questions may remain unanswered. According to the figures provided by the deputy parliament speaker Ahmet Aydın in 2016 in the first year of the previous parliamentary term the cabinet ministers replied only 2,101 out of 6,387 questions directed at them. Since 24 June, the cabinet ministers are no more responsible to the parliament according to 2017 constitutional amendments.

However, opposition MPs have been relentlessly raising the issue during parliamentary debates. In a 2017 debate on a proposal for setting up a parliamentary investigation commission on the “suspicious conscript deaths” the main opposition CHP deputy Niyazi Nefi Kara claimed that in the 15 years since 1992 “the rights NGOs have counted and recorded 2,220 suspicious deaths that have occurred in the barracks.”

Oktay Can the chair of the “Association for the Victims of Suspicious Deaths”, confirms MPs Kara and Toğrul: “In the last 4 years 500 concripts lost their lives with suspicious deaths. Most of the killings occur in east and southeast provinces and most of the killed are of Kurdish or Alevite origins.”