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Thousands gather to commemorate Tahir Elçi on 8th anniversary of his murder

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Thousands have come together in the southeastern province of Diyarbakır to commemorate the eighth anniversary of the killing of former Diyarbakır Bar Association chairman and human rights activist Tahir Elçi in 2015.

Elçi was killed in November 2015 while giving a speech in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish province of Diyarbakır during a clash between the Turkish police and members of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

Calling for a peace rally on what turned out to be the day of his death in Sur’s historic district, Elçi said he wanted no violence, war, destruction or armed operations in the area.

Turkey had blockaded Sur at the time as part of mass operations against the PKK, with Diyarbakir’s historic “four-legged minaret” damaged during the clashes. Elçi was shot to death in front of the minaret, where he was delivering his call for peace.

As part of this year’s commemoration program, organized by the Diyarbakır Bar Association and the Tahir Elçi Foundation, a march from the Diyarbakır Courthouse to the four-legged minaret took place.

Among the participants of the march were Türkan Elçi, wife of the slain lawyer and İstanbul MP from the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP); the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Equality and Democratic Party (HEDEP) co-chair Tülay Hatimoğulları; Erinç Sağkan, head of the Union of Turkish Bar Associations (TBB); Diyarbakır Bar Association chair Nahit Eren; and CHP group deputy chair Ali Mahir Başarır, in addition to human rights advocates, other representatives from political parties and democratic mass organizations.

The participants held banners reading “We will not forget you” in Kurdish and Turkish while chanting “Tahir Elçi is our honor” in the same two languages.

Following the march, Eren spoke to the press, saying that the perpetrators of Elçi’s murder have not been punished and that justice has not been served despite the passage of eight years.

“We have not yet been able to fulfill the longing for a country in which human rights are respected, social polarization and hatred have come to an end and the Kurdish question is resolved according to democratic values,” Eren added.

The Kurdish issue, a term prevalent in Turkey’s public discourse, refers to the demand for equal rights by the country’s Kurdish population and their struggle for recognition.

Eren reminded that the ninth hearing in the Elçi case will take place on Nov. 29, adding that significant progress has not been made over the past eight sessions.

Expressing concern that the relevant authorities remained indifferent to the injustices revealed during the investigation, Eren called on them to ensure that the case is conducted in a manner befitting its political significance and in honor of the memory of Elçi, urging a revelation of all aspects of the murder.

Turkish prosecutors claimed three police officers and a PKK member at the scene were suspects in the murder.

The three police officers — Mesut S., Fuat T. and Sinan T. — are charged in the indictment with “causing death by culpable negligence,” which carries a prison sentence of two to six years.

Fugitive Ugur Yakışır, an alleged member of the PKK, is charged with “murdering Tahir Elçi and two police officers [who died the same day],” facing multiple life sentences and an additional 45 years in prison.

Tahir Elçi’s lawyers argue that during the investigation, evidence in the case was inadequately collected. Despite requesting the questioning of certain police officers and officials, pointing out the lack of a crime scene investigation, their requests were rejected.

Meanwhile, jailed Kurdish leader Selahattin Demirtaş, former co-chair of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), composed a song titled “Elegy for Elçi.”

The song was performed by lawyer Mercan Argunağa, who has been involved in music for a long time, and he shared the video of him singing the song on his YouTube channel on the occasion of the eighth anniversary of Elçi’s death.

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