Armoured vehicles in Turkey’s Kurdish-majority regions killed not less than 36 civilians from 2008 to 2018, with the Turkish government turning a blind eye to the systematic violation, as tracked by the Human Rights Association’s (İHD) based in Ankara.
About 85 people were injured and 36 others, including 16 under 18 years of age, were killed over the past 10 years. Just in the past three years, in Diyarbakır, 12 civilians, including two children, were killed by armoured vehicles. Turkish authorities did not make any noted effort to stop the killings.
Drivers of the vehicles only receive minimal sentences that are often deferred, Turkish newspaper Ahval reported. Forensics Institutes affiliated with Turkey’s government totally cleared the police men who were involved in the accidents.
Two Turkish police armoured vehicles have taken the highest record for a single accident by killing 8 people from the same family in Diyarbakır in 2017. One vehicle’s driver, Burhan Kolbaşı, was detained, then immediately released after giving a statement.
Later, the Diyarbakır court dismissed the Yamankılıç family’s case against the governorate and ordered the Kurdish family to pay court expenses, based on two reports by Ankara Forensics Institute and an expert at Istanbul Technical University who both supported that the cause of the accident was “a flat tyre”, clearing the police and the driver. Two years later, Diyarbakır’s chief prosecutor defied expectations and charged the driver with multiple counts of manslaughter. Kolbaşı faces up to 15 years in prison.
According to the paper, another police vehicle reportedly hit members of the same family that was driven by the officer Nuh İpek. The Ankara Forensics Institute returned with a report, saying Officer İpek was absolutely not to blame for the crash. This brought the case to the forensics institute in Istanbul, which issued a similar report.
Lice’s chief public prosecutor still charged the officer with five counts of manslaughter. But the charges were dismissed in Diyarbakır and the case was thrown out, as expert reports said İpek was not responsible, putting the full blame for the crash on the deceased civilian driver of the car, Fikri Demirbaş. No surprise, Diyarbakır police then sent a notice to Demirbaş’s heirs demanding €250,000 ($280,000) for damage to the €350,000 ($391,000) vehicle.
“They killed my husband, now they send me the invoice. Who would accept that?” said Fikri Demirbaş’s wife of 38 years, Halime Demirbaş, who with her eight children has fallen on hard times since her husband’s death.
Decrying lack of evidence, the Demirbaş family’s lawyer, Velat Bozhan said the lack of evidence gathered initially meant it was vital for the scene of the accident to be re-examined again, and that the armoured vehicle’s hard disks must be reviewed to recover any data that could shed light on what happened.
Human Rights Foundation of Turkey (TİHV)’s Diyarbakır representative, Barış Yavuz said armoured vehicles “should not cruise roads in the first place. They are made for operations, not regular driving in urban traffic as visibility is low due to their cabin designs.”