The Roboski Massacre: 11 years have passed without justice

Originally published in Turkish on 28 December 2022 by Gazete Sabro. You can find the original here.

On 28 December 2011, Turkish warplanes carried out a raid against villagers engaged in border trade near the villages of Gülyazı (Bêjûh) and Ortasu (Roboski) in Şırnak’s Uludere district, near the Turkish-Iraqi border. Thirty-four people, including 19 children, were killed. Today, relatives still continue their search for justice. What follows below is a compilation of 11 years of injustice.

Non-Prosecution Decision

The massacre received no real coverage in government media outlets. An investigative subcommittee, however, was established under the human rights committee of the Turkish Grand National Assembly. Despite several committee members stating that “the images speak for themselves”, and that “These people are clearly dead”, the general command of the army decided, in a hearing of the case on 7 January 2013, not to pursue the case further under the guise that its air force personnel had only “fulfilled their duties”.

The application of the families of the people killed in Roboski to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) was rejected because it said it was “full”.

Murder of Lawyer Tahir Elçi

Tahir Elçi, lawyer in the Roboski case, was killed in front of the historic 4-legged minaret in the Sur district of Omid (Diyarbakır). The Association for Justice for Roboski and Peace in the World (ROBOSKİ-DER), founded by the descendants, was closed in 2017 under a legal decree.

The ECHR, where the case was filed after all national legal remedies had been exhausted, dismissed the case on 17 May 2018 on the grounds that the lawyers of the families had submitted the missing documents two days late.

In addition to all these legal irregularities, Veli Encu, the brother of Serhat Encu, who lost his life in the massacre, and Barış Encu, the brother of Nevzat Encu, were arrested and tried for their protests, actions, public statements, and comments.

Numerous lawsuits were also filed against many Roboski families on the grounds of “border violation, delaying of the court, holding protests, publicly carrying pictures and banners”.

Roboski Massacre. (Image: Gazete Sabro)

Thirty-Four People on Trial

For attending protests that were held after the massacre, lawsuits have been filed against 34 people, including Ferhat Encu, the new Peoples’ Democratic Party (Halkların Demokratik Partisi, HDP) Co-Chair for Istanbul Province. The charges include, “propaganda for a terrorist organization, insulting military officials, intentional attempted murder.” These lawsuits continue.

Furthermore, 16 families are on trial at the Şırnak High Criminal Court for attending the Roboski memorial. Repeated fines of between 1,000 and 3,000 Turkish Liras have been handed out.

Selahattin Demirtaş: “You will pay for your bloody hands”

Selahattin Demirtaş, then chairman of the Peace and Democracy Party (Barış ve Demokrasi Partisi, BDP), called on the then Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to apologize for the massacre during a session in Turkish Parliament. Demirtaş addressed Erdoğan with the following words:

“We do not recognize your form of constitutionalism, we do not recognize your premiership, we do not recognize your ideology. Who do you think you are? You kill the children of this people. You come to this stage with bloodied hands and demand accountability from the BDP. You will know your place, you will pay for your bloody hands first, you will apologize, you will apologize for killing these children. You are primarily responsible for this carnage; you will be the first to answer for it.”

Despite the Roboski memorial in Omid being dismantled and removed by the trustee, the relatives of those who lost their lives in the massacre have not given up their call for justice.

Relentless Quest for Justice

The Justice for Roboski Initiative holds a press conference every 28th of the month in the Ankara chapter of the Human Rights Association. The Justice for Roboski Initiative emphasizes and reiterates its demand for the prosecution of all those responsible for carnage and the 132 months of injustice and its call for justice for the families.