Kidnapped police officer, executed in northern Iraq, turns out to be purge victim

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One of 13 Turkish nationals held hostage by the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and killed in a PKK camp in northern Iraq on Feb. 14 had been purged from his job as a police officer under a government decree in 2018, according to Turkish media reports.

Turkey on Sunday accused PKK militants of executing 13 Turkish nationals, mainly members of the security forces, whom they had held captive in a cave in the Gara region of northern Iraq, where Ankara launched an operation against the PKK on Feb. 10.

Police officer Vedat Kaya, who was among the victims, had been taken hostage by the PKK in July 2016. He was suspended from his job in 2017 and fired in 2018 by a government decree as part of a massive purge launched by the Turkish government following a coup attempt on July 15, 2016. Kaya was among the more than 130,000 civil servants who were dismissed from their jobs on the grounds that they had links to terrorist groups.

An aide to President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Fahrettin Altun, tweeted about Kaya without referring to his expulsion from his job.

“Vedat Kaya, a police officer from Mardin [province]. He was taken hostage by the PKK on July 24, 2016 while traveling with his family in the Lice district [of Diyarbakır province]. He was contemptuously martyred by the PKK on Feb. 14, 2021. May you rest in peace, my hero. We will take revenge for you,” Altun tweeted.

Many social media users posted messages about the irony in Altun’s message, which refers to Kaya as a “martyr” although he was expelled from his job on terrorism links.

“If you stay alive, you are a terrorist, if your are killed, you are a martyr,” tweeted journalist Said Sefa in reference to Kaya’s case, recalling that Kaya’s name along with his ID number was on the list of to-be-purged civil servants published by the pro-government Akşam daily in 2017.

In addition to losing their jobs, purge victims have been denied passports and according to many reports have been struggling to find jobs as they were stigmatized by a broader smear campaign.

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