Tahir Elçi, a prominent Kurdish human rights activist and former head of the Diyarbakır Bar Association, was remembered by his family members, colleagues and supporters on social media on the fifth anniversary of his murder in southeastern Turkey.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the fifth anniversary of Elçi’s murder was commemorated primarily through video messages on social media, with only a limited number of people making a press statement near the Four-Legged Minaret in Diyarbakır where he was shot dead.
One of those who posted a video message for the slain lawyer with the hashtag #TahirElçisiz5Yıl (five years without Tahir Elçi) was Şebnem Korur Fincancı, president of the Turkish Medical Association (TTB).
“Tahir Elçi is a great loss for us. He was always on the front lines fighting for human rights and freedoms. He took the most meaningful steps serving that cause,” she said.
Sezgin Tanrıkulu, a lawmaker from the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) and former head of the Diyarbakır Bar Association, said the Turkish judiciary was a party to the murder of Elçi, who was identified as a target and killed in an act that could have been prevented.
“Tahir Elçi pursued cases of enforced disappearance and unsolved murders, and he was murdered because of that,” he added.
“Things haven’t changed a bit in the last five years. Unfortunately, murders are still happening and the murderers are still allowed [by the government] to go free. But don’t worry, we are continuing your fight against the government’s policy of not punishing criminals,” Meral Danış Beştaş, a lawyer and MP from the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), said.
As part of a commemoration ceremony held on Saturday, Elçi’s family members walked from the Diyarbakir Courthouse to the Sheikh Matar Mosque, also known as the Four-Legged Minaret by locals, along with a number of NGO members and lawyers, mostly from the Diyarbakır Bar Association.
They made a press statement there and then concluded the program by visiting Elçi’s grave.
“The policy of not punishing criminals pursued by the government during the investigation of the Elçi case continues in the courtroom as well. The Diyarbakır Bar Association will continue to fight that policy and the government’s attempts to cover up the truth,” the statement said.
During the first hearing in the trial of four suspects in Elçi’s assassination held at the Diyarbakır 10th High Criminal Court on October 21, the court rejected all requests of the Elçi family as to procedure. The attorneys for the family then the requested the recusal of the panel of judges.
The Kurdish lawyer died on November 28, 2015, when he was shot in the head shortly after calling on Ankara and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has waged a separatist insurgency in southeastern Turkey since 1984, to keep clashes away from civilian areas in the region, during a press conference in Diyarbakır.
His death came at a time when Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) had ended its two-year-long peace process with the outlawed PKK, which resulted in armed conflict between Turkish forces and Kurdish militants in the country’s Southeast.