Tahir Elçi was killed by a single bullet to the back of his head on November 28, 2015. He was the president of the Diyarbekir Bar Association and a staunch supporter of Armenian concerns. He was a Kurd.
Interestingly, his last name means ambassador, envoy or prophet.
Why is this relevant, and specifically, relevant to Armenians, 39 months after his tragic death?
Elçi’s longstanding support of Armenians at all levels, his outspokenness on Armenian rights in Turkey, recognition of the Genocide in unequivocal terms, always opening doors for us and speaking at our April Genocide commemorations (in Turkey) mark him as a friend of our nation.
There’s also the astounding fact that the LA Times has reported on the results of an investigation conducted by “Forensic Architecture” (FA) at the behest of the Diyarbekir Bar Association. These are presented in a half-hour video which is well worth watching. It seems this newspaper, which rarely publishes items that are of interest to, and cast in a positive light, Armenians and Kurds, couldn’t disregard the compelling outcome of the investigation. Or, dare we hope, people are coming to realize the plain and simple truth about Turkey’s hard-heated leadership.
Elçi was killed in the aftermath of an attack by members of PKK’s (Partiya Karkeren Kurdistan – Kurdistan Workers Party) youth wing whereby two Turkish policemen were killed. Their escape route went right past the spot where Elçi was holding a press conference to call for a cessation of the fighting in Diyarbekir/Dikrangerd (especially in the historic Sur district where the population is heavily Kurdish) between government forces and the PKK. Shots were fired by both police and the escaping PKK members. Somewhere along the line, Elçi was shot dead.
Then Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu promised there would be a thorough investigation. That never happened. The investigation has been piecemeal and much delayed. But, unsurprisingly, in relatively short order, the Turkish government took advantage of the coincidence and blamed Elçi’s death on the PKK. FA’s work makes it look most likely that a Turkish policeman’s bullet was responsible for the killing. This puts Ankara squarely in the hot seat. The shell for the lethal bullet has been found. But, contrary to Davutoğlu’s promises, ballistics testing has not been done. And the police involved in the gunfight have not been properly questioned.
In this cauldron of confusion, everyone is blaming everyone else in line with their political interests. It behooves Turkey to conduct a thorough and proper investigation. Now that FA’s study results are public, Ankara’s job is easier. Do it right. Let the chips fall where they may.
But, it would be no surprise if Erdoğan continues his obfuscation and use of this tragedy for political purposes. Local elections are coming up in Turkey, and Erdoğan is a master political manipulator. No depth of political deception or misdirection should be put past him. If he sees a way to use Elçi’s death to benefit his agenda, he will use it.
The international community including Armenians, Assyrians, Greeks, Jews, Kurds and Turkish citizens must pressure the appropriate law enforcement bodies in Turkey to do their jobs. Perhaps one important pressure-point is the Khashoggi mess. Erdoğan has used this murder to burnish his image as a “defender” of decency. Elçi’s murder cries out for decent investigation.
Let’s use this moment, given the coverage that has begun in the media, to convey to our elected representatives the importance of a thorough and proper investigation. Government officials the world over should be conveying this demand to Turkey’s ambassadors. This is also a good way to show pro-Armenian Kurds that we appreciate their actions and words and will reciprocate. Let’s make this happen.