Part Two: Code of the Kalashnikov

The Blood of Massacred Turkish Kurds Holds a Fearful Lesson for Those Who Would Flee Iraq

Emin Guclu, the leader of the Guclu clan, has a wiry frame and penetrating hazel eyes. His skin is reddish. His hair is graying, his moustache dark. When he wants to make a point, he brings his right hand up, and squeezes his thumb and forefinger against each other. When he is finished talking, his lips come together to form a wry smile.

Although the Jandarma commander sees fit to escort this journalist to Emin Guclu's home, he does not find it necessary to stay and take notes. Guclu won't permit his photograph to be taken. Currently, only three members of his clan are in state custody for the killings. Many here say Emin Guclu should stand trial beside them.

Welat Tekin with her child, survivors of village shooting
photo: Raffi Khatchadourian
Welat Tekin with her child, survivors of village shooting


Editor's Note
The 11 oil companies building a new pipeline from Azerbaijan to Turkey are hungry enough for Caspian Sea crude that they'll string some 655,000 tons of steel pipe across earthquake zones and dangerous political faultlines—never more than a few hundred miles from Iraq, on whose borders the forces of war are gathering.

But as Raffi Khatchadourian reports in the second installment of this series, the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan route will swing wide of Turkey's southeastern provinces, scene of a violent 15-year ethnic insurgency. Caught between the ruthless rebels and the thuggish government-backed militias, thousands of innocent Kurds were killed, and possibly millions forced from their homes. If the U.S. invades Iraq, Kurds there are expected to flood into Turkey—where their new host's most brutish thugs are set to watch over them.

"Part One: Turkish Fishermen Threaten a Blockade"

Guclu claims that he is not a member of the village guards and that his family never received weapons from the state. (A Jandarma officer familiar with the case, when interviewed separately, not only refers to him as a village guardsman, but also says the government armed his clan.)

He begins by explaining that he can't comment on the attacks, because he wasn't there. Then he says the shooting occurred because the Tanguner and Tekin clans attacked the Guclus with sticks. If anything, he finally suggests, tensions between his clan and the others were the result of a long-running feud. But when pressed, he admits the feud mostly involved a third family, one friendly with the victims and not present at the scene of the crime. When asked why witnesses say he fired two warning shots on seeing the Tanguner and Tekin families arrive, he replies, "It was an accident."

Whether Emin Guclu is innocent or guilty might not make any difference. In Turkey today, village guards and security forces who commit crimes most often go unpunished.

Thus the violence continues. Jonathan Sugden of Human Rights Watch cites the village-guard system as the most easily identifiable obstacle for Turkish Kurds trying to go back home. Three returning villagers were shot dead by guards in July. Another nearly died after being stabbed in October. "The fact that these sort of incidents keep happening suggests that village guards feel more or less immune from serious legal consequences," Sugden says.

But in Ugrak, as the Tenguner, Tekin, and Guclu families struggle to share the same lonely hill, matters of innocence or guilt give way to more profound questions. "How is it possible that these people who are your neighbors, who you grow up with in the same village—you watch their children grow—one day come and kill you?" wonders Gulestan Tekin. "No, I don't think there can ever be peace between us."

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