Istanbul, Aug 24 () - A lieutenant colonel’s angry rebuke during the funeral ceremony for his soldier brother has been added to the increasing number of protests by mourners accusing President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and the government over the spike in violence ahead of early elections in Turkey.
Army Captain Ali Alkan was killed after PKK militants attacked a military outpost in southeastern Şırnak province’s Beytüşşebap district late Aug. 21.
More than 15,000 people, including several members of parliament, participated in the funeral ceremony for Alkan in the southern province of Osmaniye on Aug. 23.
Tensions ran high when Justice and Development Party (AKP) politicians attempted to take a place in the front row during the prayer service for Alkan. “You have nothing to do here. Get out,” an infuriated mourner shouted at AKP deputies Suat Ünal and Mücahit Durmuşoğlu.
“I am a relative of our martyr and I am not standing in the front row. What are these marauders doing there?” another person in the crowd asked angrily. Then the crowd began to boo the local religious head who conducted the ceremony for making a place for AKP deputies.
As AKP deputies were forced to leave the ceremony grounds, a cousin of the slain soldier yelled in protest, targeting Erdoğan. “What kind of deal have you made that the children of our homeland are going like this? Why doesn’t Turkey stand up? Why does Turkey sleep? Is it the solution process? The solution is now lying here,” Ahmet Şahin said.
‘Solution process’ halted
Turkey’s peace bid, which is also called the solution process, which aimed to end the decades-long Kurdish problem, was blessed by Erdoğan and conducted by the government for years. It was halted after Erdoğan’s tone dramatically changed months before the June 7 election when public support for the ruling AKP dropped.
After the AKP lost its single party majority in the election, the PKK resumed attacks and the government launched operations against the outlawed group including air strikes targeting its bases in northern Iraq.
“Why do those who have been saying ‘solution’ since yesterday now say war?” asked Mehmet Alkan, a uniformed lieutenant colonel and the elder brother of a slain soldier, as the funeral ceremony continued.
“This son of our homeland was just 32 years old. He couldn’t get enough of his country, his beloved ones yet. Who is his murderer?”
While clutching his brother’s coffin, the lieutenant colonel also took jabs at the presidential palace, the controversial construction of which was ordered by Erdoğan.
“Those who say that they want to become a martyr are hanging around in palaces with 30 bodyguards and armored vehicles. There is no such thing! If you want to become a martyr, then you should go there and do it,” he said.
Alkan’s words were also pointed at Energy Minister Taner Yıldız, who expressed his desire to die for the country. “My goal is to be martyred, if Allah desires, for my religion, nation and country,” the minister had said on Aug. 19.
Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) deputy chair Mevlüt Karakaya, who attended the ceremony, told journalists AKP deputies “attempted to take the front row by crushing people.”
Spike in violence loads up funerals
Neither the state-run Anadolu Agency nor nine pro-government newspapers reported the lieutenant colonel’s protest. Dailies Sabah, Türkiye, Güneş, Akit and Milat did not even publish any report about the funeral.
However, Cem Küçük, a columnist for the pro-government daily Yeni Şafak, criticized the military officer during a live broadcast on pro-government broadcaster TV24 on Aug. 23.
“How can you criticize our state’s leader, our president, the commander-in-chief, instead of criticizing the PKK?” Küçük said, suggesting that Alkan “was speaking as if he is a follower of Fethullah Gülen,” the government’s ally-turned-nemesis.
Meanwhile, fiercely pro-government social media users, known as “Ak trolls,” launched an angry campaign against Alkan on Twitter, labelling him as a “Gülenist,” an “Alevi,” and even a “terrorist.”
Saadet Party (SP) chair Mustafa Kamalak was the first politician who reacted against the campaign against the mourning soldier.
“Not only the families of martyrs, but everyone is concerned about the situation. They all react. Whoever criticizes [Mehmet Alkan] is the real traitor” Kamalak said in Diyarbakır on Aug. 24.
This is not the first time mourners at funeral services for slain soldiers have accused Erdoğan and the government for the rekindled violence.
“The president should be proud, as he has managed to make brothers kill each other,” said a cousin of Private Recep Beycur, who was killed in a PKK attack in the southeastern province of Siirt, during his funeral on Aug. 18.
“If we had elected him president, it wouldn’t end up like this, right?” a mourner had yelled at the face of Health Minister Mehmet Müezzinoğlu during the funeral of Sergeant Bahadır Aydın, who was also killed in the PKK attack in Siirt on Aug. 20.
Days before the incident, Müezzinoğlu had raised some eyebrows by suggesting that “such chaos would not happen” if Erdoğan was given full presidential powers.
Müezzinoğlu repeated his argument on Aug. 23.
Among 60 Turkish security personnel who have been killed by the PKK in the past month, six of them were born in the province of Osmaniye.
Since clashes resumed, 771 PKK militants have been killed and the outlawed group’s bases in northern Iraq have been bombed by Turkey, according to official figures.