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Turks defy tradition to get answers over their sons' deaths

The Turkish army has traditionally been considered above the law in its long-running fight against Kurdish rebels. However, now the military is under pressure from the families of slain soldiers.

A Turkish military parade

About 100 Turkish soldiers have been killed this summer

Hasan Say took the news of the death of his son stoically.

“I swear to you, I did not cry when they brought me the news that my son had been killed in action," he said.

"But when I saw the pictures transmitted by the drones, I broke down under the sorrow of what had been done to my son and to this nation.”

Say's son, Ayhan, was one of the one-hundred soldiers of the Turkish army killed this summer in bombings, attacks and ambushes by the PKK Kurdish rebel group.

Many, if not most, of the slain soldiers were young conscripts barely out of their teens.

Unanswered questions

Footage of the attack that killed Ayhan, broadcast live from an unmanned intelligence drone to army headquarters and 30 security units at the time, has been replayed over and over again on television and news websites.

Families of the soldiers who died in the attack have had to watch as their sons are attacked, herded, cornered and killed by a group of PKK rebels, who ultimately escape into the mountains.

Turkish Kurds demonstrate in support of Kurdish rebels in Istanbul

Some ethnic Kurds ín Turkey support the Kurdish rebels

Many family members, including Hasan Say, wonder where the reinforcements the unit so desperately radioed for are, and why it took the first helicopter an hour to reach the scene.

The army has not made a public statement, nor has it answered the families' questions, says Say.

"A lifeless piece of metal has told us the whole story, but those at the very top of this army which calls itself honorable, they won't say a word," said Say. "Why won't they talk, have they swallowed their tongues? Why?"

Taking action

Frustrated by the army's silence, the Say family has joined forces with several other soldiers' families and filed a formal complaint against the army – a historical first in Turkey, where the military has always been sacrosanct.

The families want those responsible tried for manslaughter, said Cahit Oezkan, president of the lawyers' association providing pro bono services to the families.

"The families of the slain soldiers have a right to an answer, not to mention material compensation." Oezkan said, adding that if certain people are able to dodge the law and their responsibilities, the killing will not stop.

For their own part, the family of Ayhan Say says they are committed to pursuing justice, no matter how long it takes.

Author: Susanne Guensten (smh)
Editor: Kyle James

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