The Cizre district of Şırnak, in Southeast Turkey, was under military curfew from December 14, 2015 until February 11, 2016. During the curfew, government security forces conducted operations in which nearly 200 people were killed, many of whom could not be identified. Large swathes of the local population were internally displaced by the operations.
Through February 24, 2016, a total of 177 bodies have been found, one of which was determined to be that of the managing editor of the Kurdish-language daily Azadıya Welat, Rohat Aktaş. DNA samples taken from family members confirmed that the remains, which had been burned beyond recognition, were those of Aktaş.
Aktaş, who got his start with Azadıya Welat delivering papers at age 12, was in Cizre in December 2015. On January 23, he was lightly wounded in the arm as a result of artillery fire and then trapped in a basement that had collapsed under bombardment. He was last heard from in February 6 telephone call.
‘Rohat Aktaş died while trying to tell the world about the plight of wounded civilians with little or no access to medical care in Cizre. Freedom of expression plays an invaluable role, particularly in times of conflict, to allow us to understand what is happening. We call on the Turkish authorities to conduct a swift, transparent and thorough investigation into the death of Rohat Aktaş and urge the government in Ankara to look for a peaceful and diplomatic solution to the conflict in southeast Turkey,’ said Salil Tripathi, Writers in Prison Committee Chair, PEN International.
Latest twist in the story that it turned out, a warrant for Aktaş , who was buried in the Suruç district of Urfa on February 26, 2016, was issued nearly four months later on May 9, 2016, by the Diyarbakır Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office. According to the ANF, the indictment seeks a sentence of up to 7.5 years and judicial fine for alleged “terror propaganda” based on issues of Azadıya Welatpublished in 2015. The Diyarbakır 4th High Criminal Court postponed the case against the deceased, which is ongoing, because Aktaş “could not be located and captured.”Aktaş’s next court date is scheduled to be in May 2017.
It is not expected for journalist Aktas to show up in his next court date either. He is dead.
Melike Gül Demir