Kurdish Lawmaker Who Lost 12 Relatives In Turkish Airstrike Is Missing

5 years ago, a man on the Turkish-Iraqi border lost 12 of his relatives and family members in a Turkish air strike. A group of smugglers were mistaken for Kurdish insurgents and smoked 34 civilians thanks to a faulty intelligence. The government has never apologized and the perpetrators were never brought into account.

That man fought for justice for his relatives who lived in an impoverished Kurdish village in the border town of Roboski (Uludere), a characteristic shared by many of his brethren across cities in Turkey. His village located on Turkey-Iraq border, in a formidable, nonarable mountainous area where people’s only income was based on smuggling goods from Iraq. A longstanding tradition was that the authorities usually were turning a blind eye. 

The struggle of Ferhat Encu for justice turned him into a champion for his people, who sent him to Parliament in 2015 elections.

Only one year into the office, none of his friends knows where Mr. Encu is now. He is facing a slew of charges, similar to 33 of his colleagues, 13 of whom are now under arrest. He was first jailed in last November and released last week. But people saw him last time when special forces took him into an armored vehicle on Friday. That was it. No hint since then about his whereabouts. 

1st Sirnak High Criminal Court ruled to arrest him over a number of posts on Twitter. His lawyer and relatives don’t know in which prison the lawmaker is being held.

His personal saga is an embodiment of Turkey’s recent brutal treatment of Kurds. Entire Kurdish-majority southeast region is a virtual war zone with social life in towns and cities being crippled by round-the-clock military curfews. 

It was Nusaybin, a town which had been under military siege and scene of months-long tenacious urban fighting between security forces and the Kurdish insurgents, where soldiers dragged him into an armored vehicle. Last week, residents were allowed to return to the town after the curfew was lifted, only to find out that their apartments were reduced to rubble. 

Turkish government’s crackdown on the pro-Kurdish People’s Democracy Party (HDP) has accelerated ahead of a referendum this April. Hundreds of party officials found themselves behind bars over bogus charges of terrorism, a blanket accusation widely used by the government to portray its opponents. 

On Tuesday, Turkish Parliament striped HDP Co-Chair Figen Yuksekdag of her deputy status in Parliament, expelling her after Turkey’s highest court upheld her conviction over terrorism propaganda. 

On the same day, another leader of the party, Selahattin Demirtas, was handed a 5-month sentence over charges of insulting the Turkish nation, the Turkish state and its institutions. 

“The revoking of [Yuksekdag’s] position in Parliament once again tramples on the constitution, and it is an effort to give the government’s political decision the appearance of legality,” HDP said in a statement.

Mr. Encu’s elevation to Parliament should have been a cause for jubilation and hope for peace, Umit Kivanc wrote on T24 news web portal in his reaction to the report of his arrest. For someone who endured great suffering over the Uludere incident, massacre in the eyes of the people in the region, preference of parliamentary politics instead of armed struggle would be welcoming indeed. 

His imprisonment coincides with ever-increasing operations and the crackdown on towns and villages. There are growing concerns over well-being of residents in Korukoy village in Nusaybin as troops do not allow villagers’ leave during the 10-day curfew. There are reports of abuse and extra-judicial killings in the village downtown. 

The deterioration of conditions reveals large-scale human tragedy across Kurdish southeast, the Amnesty International documented in a riveting account. According to the Amnesty, half a million people have been displaced during clashes between PKK insurgents and Turkish troops in cities. The government has replaced elected mayors of Kurdish-run municipalities with trustees.

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