Uludere: Cover-up

Whichever vantage point one looks from, the draft report on Uludere incident borders on a fiasco. After a work that lasted what feels like forever (almost a year and a half) voting process, public presentation and all conclusions by the parliamentary sub-commission leaves us all with the same questions on what happened, why, and who is reasponsible.

In short, all the accountability process – if any exists – is heading for a scandal.

GörselThe sub-commission – as part of the Human Rights Commission – had started to work in the immediate aftermath of the bloody event. In the late evening of December 28, 2011, a group of Kurdish smugglers returning from Iraq to Turkish border, were bombed at Uludere/Roboski region by the Turkish aircraft. The air assault, which lasted in four phases between 9.40 and 10.25 p.m., ended with 34 of them killed. The incident shook Turkey, particularly Ankara and Kurds.

76 page long draft report the other day had to be leaked to the press. It seems it was voted in high tension, under duress. The chairman, an AKP deputy, refused to distribute the papers to the members due to an apparent fear of media reports. It was voted by the 5 vote strong AKP majority, while the three members of the opposition rejected.

The most important part of the public expectation was that, against all attempts for a cover-up, the sub-commission would at least shed some more light on who are responsible for the tragedy. But the report contains neither the word “mistake” nor “oversight”. It underlines the phrase, roughly, “there was no intent”, which the dissenters claim was imposed by the AKP members “in the last minute”.

“When I read the draft, I felt ashamed in the name of humanity” told Levent Gök, a member of the commission from the CHP. “It is a black stain on the historic record of the Human Rights Commission. It shows a cooperation between the AKP and the Chief of Staff. Its content is null and void. It does not point out anybody as responsible; sufficing with a flaw of coordination between military and civilian authorities. There is nothing there about the militart staff; it is as if an army from the outer space did all that.”

Gök added that four crucial questions remain unaddressed: Who evaluated the visuals that were sent by drones earlier that evening? Who defined the assault coordinates? Which additional intel led to final assessments? Who gave the final orders to shoot?

Indeed, and more: we have, after 15 months, still no clue about what really went wrong between the ministries, National Intelligence, military headquarters and their local counterparts. The draft confirms the mess, but it is surely not what it was assembled for.

Why a cover-up? Theories and speculations are many. Yet, in the blur, we all know that some officers in command positions at the AirForce and 2nd Army, as well as others in Central Command, got away. The government’s reflex did also converge with their interests for the diversion of the inquiries. The role of the National Intel was kept in the unknown as well.

Gök said it was a black day for the victims’ relatives. May so be. But, there is more beyond that. The “solution process” is primarily about building trust. It is clear that neither the assassinations of three female front figurtes of the PKK, nor the daily Milliyet’s publishing the minutes of the Öcalan-BDP meeting did cause any damage to it. But the ghosts of Uludere, dancing on an open wound, definitely will.

The BDP’s delegation complained that PKK bases in Kandil mountain were bombed, when they tried to convey the messages of Öcalan to the rebel commanders; expressing fear for their own safety. It seems Ankara still is in second thoughts about whether it is seriously in the peace talks, or not. This type of attitude will not help disperse suspicion and mistrust.

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About yavuzbaydar

Yavuz Baydar has been an award-winning Turkish journalist, whose professional activity spans nearly four decades. In December 2013, Baydar co-founded the independent media platform, P24, Punto24, to monitor the media sector of Turkey, as well as organizing surveys, and training workshops. Baydar wrote opinion columns, in Turkish, liberal daily Ozgur Dusunce and news site Haberdar, and in English, daily Today's Zaman, on domestic and foreign policy issues related to Turkey, and media matters, until all had to cease publications due to growing political oppression. Currently, he writes regular chronicles for Die Süddeutsche Zeitung, and opinion columns for the Arab Weekly, as well as analysis for Index on Censorship. Baydar blogs with the Huffington Post, sharing his his analysis and views on Turkish politics, the Middle East, Balkans, Europe, U.S-Turkish relations, human rights, free speech, press freedom, history, etc. His opinion articles appeared at the New York Times, the Guardian, El Pais, Svenska Dagbladet, and Al Jazeera English online. Turkey’s first news ombudsman, beginning at Milliyet daily in 1999, Baydar worked in the same role as reader representative until 2014. His work included reader complaints with content, and commentary on media ethics. Working in a tough professional climate had its costs: he was twice forced to leave his job, after his self-critical columns on journalistic flaws and fabricated news stories. Baydar worked as producer and news presenter in Swedish Radio &TV Corp. (SR) Stockholm, Sweden between 1979-1991; as correspondent for Scandinavia and Baltics for Turkish daily Cumhuriyet between 1980-1992, and the BBC World Service, in early 1990's. Returning to Turkey in 1994, he worked as reporter and ediytor for various outlets in print, as well as hosting debate porogrammes in public and private TV channels. Baydar studied informatics, cybernetics and, later, had his journalism ediucatiob in the University of Stockholm. Baydar served as president of the U.S. based International Organizaton of News Ombudsmen (ONO) in 2003. He was a Knight-Wallace Fellow at University of Michigan in 2004. Baydar was given the Special Award of the European Press Prize (EPP), for 'excellence in journalism', along with the Guardian and Der Spiegel in 2014. He won the Umbria Journalism Award in March 2014 and Caravella/Mare Nostrum Prize in 2015; both in Italy. Baydar completed an extensive research on self-censorship, corruption in media, and growing threats over journalism in Turkey as a Shorenstein Fellow at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard.
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