Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Tuesday said the death of two soldiers due to hypothermia in southeastern Tunceli province last week was “a kind of martyrdom, too.”
“One can be a martyred by a bullet or by freezing to death. My ancestors died [of hypothermia] in Sarıkamış with their rifles clutched in their hands,” Erdoğan said at a parliamentary meeting of his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), referring to a 1914 incident when thousands of Ottoman soldiers died due to cold weather.
For many historians the debacle in Sarıkamış, a town in northern Kars province, was a logistical failure of the Ottoman army.
In his speech Erdoğan targeted main opposition leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu who criticized officials for laxity in the incident in Tunceli and questioned the quality of army uniforms.
“Right now our soldiers’ equipment is what the modern armies’ of the world are using,” Erdoğan said, adding that Kılıçdaroğlu had “no belief in martyrdom.”
According to official reports, a team of 12 soldiers landed in the Tunceli highlands on Oct. 22 as part of a military operation. Four days later rescue helicopters were dispatched due to worsening weather but failed to reach the area because of heavy snow.
Twelve soldiers were hospitalized as soon as the rescue team arrived at their camp; however, Ferruh Dikmen and Asım Türkel did not respond to medical treatment and passed away.
The 10 others were discharged following treatment.
The Tunceli Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office and Tunceli Gendarmerie Command have launched an investigation into the incident.