TURKEY – “We are not prey!”. These strong words are the title of the statement to the public opinion and media published by Facebook group for Syriac activists and intellectuals “Platform Turabdin”. The statement published by Platform Turabdin concerns the missing and murder case of the Syriac Chaldean couple Hirmiz and Shmuni Diril who disappeared on January 11, 2020 in the Chaldean village of Mahre in Şirnak province, southeastern Turkey. The lifeless, mutilated and partly dismembered remains of Shmuni Diril were found on March 20 near the couple’s village. Hirmiz Diril is still missing. The statement by Platform Turabdin reads as follows (translated from Turkish):
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“… Unfortunately, it seems conspicuous and intimidating in the eyes of some that our people want to live on the lands they have inhabited for thousands of years. Clearly, the hunters who since 1915 (ed. 1915 genocide on Armenians, Greeks and Syriacs) have seen the Christian peoples as “prey”, still have not lowered their weapons.
The hunting season has been opened from time to time. And after the open invitation to our people to return by the Turkish state, our people who had returned to their home village and went about their own business were once again seen as “prey”. We do not yet know why or who kidnapped these two people or who has killed Shmuni Diril, but we do know the prevailing discriminatory and hateful ruling mentality.
Although the perpetrator(s) are not known yet, there is one irrefutable fact: authorities have not investigated the incident thoroughly. The investigating authorities in the first couple of days did not carry out serious search and rescue activities. They left the village after performing a photo show to satisfy media coverage. And there is still no serious search since their disappearance
… It is essential that the relevant authorities carry out a comprehensive search and investigation… and to clarify the incident. In the process, the public should be informed in a transparent manner.”
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According to Platform Turabdin administrator and spokesman Adnan Challma Kulhan, speaking to Dutch magazine “De Kanttekening”, the Turkish authorities’ file on the case is confidential. He suspects authorities are covering up for the perpetrators. Kulhan points to the prevailing prerogative mentality of Turkish exclusivity. There is impunity in Turkey and the hunting season on (e.g. Syriac and Armenian) Christians is open from time to time.
As to the who, Kulhan doesn’t see it likely the Kurdish Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) is behind the kidnapping and the murder:
“If the PKK carries out an action, they also publish a press statement. That hasn’t happened in this case.” he said. “Moreover, the PKK has no reason to hurt the Diril couple. They were not known as opponents of the PKK or as state informants. In fact, when Shmuni and Hirmiz Diril were still living in Istanbul, they regularly took part in the Saturday Mothers’ demonstrations to draw attention to missing children cases. Many Kurds also participate in these demonstrations.”
The PKK has dispersed hideouts in the mountainous and difficult to reach region the village of Mahre is located in. The PKK moves around the area. The Turkish state from the 1980s and 1990s recruited and armed so-called “village guards” from the Kurdish community to counter the PKK alongside the Turkish military presence. According to Kulhan, jealous neighboring villagers or village guards from Şirnak may very well be behind the kidnapping and murder.
“Shmuni and Hirmiz Diril were well-off and lived in Istanbul for a long time. That could have caused resentment.”
According to Adnan Challma Kulhan Turkish mainstream media do not cover the kidnapping and murder because there is no freedom of the press in Turkey. Turkish mainstream newspapers are only interested if they can blame the PKK or the Gülen movement and the left-wing independent press is no longer existent.
The Diril case is more than a tragic missing an murder case. It is a case in many other cases with unanswered questions. A tragic profile case in a long and troubled history. And given the troubled history of forced evacuation from their village of the Diril family, given its current aftermath and given the tragic course of history for Syriacs in Turkey in general, this case deserves justice. The eleven Diril children deserve justice, answers and peace of mind.