On the Iraqi side of the Turkish-Iraqi border, 35 people were killed as a result of a military air strike which was thought to be targeting PKK terrorists. Those who were killed were not actually terrorists, but Kurdish people who were involving in smuggling along the Iraqi border.
The incident caused deep sorrow in Turkey regardless of social, economic, political or cultural backgrounds. Politicians, community leaders and members of the mass media also expressed pain and sorrow. There were exceptions of course against the mainstream, some of whom said these were smugglers providing financing for the terrorist organization and some of whom claimed the state deliberately killed them.
The Uludere incident has offered many lessons for government officials, the media, NGOs, members of the larger society and of course for the local communities.
From a political angle, this incident should not be a source of exploitation for any political wings. However, it is worth mentioning how political parties have handled the incident itself as a source of analysis. For example, the BDP (Peace and Democracy Party) saw the incident as a window of opportunity to revive its base in the region. In fact, it was so excited about the incident that instead of inviting people to calm down, it tried everything to ignite emotions. Likewise, the PKK terrorist organization saw the incident as a restart for itself in terms of new attacks, violent demonstrations and the recruitment of new members. Just like the YSK (Higher Election Committee) decision before the general elections, the Uludere incident gave new opportunities to those who could take nourishment from chaos and violence. Street demonstrations, Molotov cocktails and stones have been used to protest the incident. Along the way, a rather strange picture showed up on TV screens in which BDP MPs were laughing just before a press conference about the incident. The same MPs however were crying in the street demonstrations, which appeared to galvanize people. Nothing new came out of these MPs about the incident except for irritating statements and the provocation of the public.
Then, the governor of Uludere was attacked by a group of people while he was paying a visit to the “tent for condolence,” a very sacred tradition in the region. The attackers were not the relatives of the victims of the incident, but were believed to be sympathizers of the PKK/KCK terrorist organizations. Since anybody who pays a visit to the “tent for condolence” is welcomed, this incident caused a big reaction among the families and relatives of the victims as well as the locals of Uludere. Strangely, this incident backfired on those who attempted to provoke the locals and Kurdish community at large.
From the ruling party’s perspective, the AKP vowed a transparent and swift investigation into what caused this incident. Prime Minister Erdogan, his deputies and other leading politicians in the party expressed their decisiveness to resolve the missing links about the incident. This is important because being a democratic country mandates transparency and accountability on the side of the government. Just recently, the acting field commander of border security in Ţýrnak was suspended in line with the ongoing investigation. While this is a promising indicator for a prompt investigation procedure, fulfilling the outcome requires inclusive steps in this process. These steps should include not only the investigation itself, but also the informing of the families of the victims and the public. The whole process should be managed to avoid any exploitation from any party which thinks that it has a vested interest in provoking the public. The ground should not be left to the PKK,BDP or ultranationalists, who do not have a grain of common sense. Second, regardless of the outcome of the investigation, anybody or any organization found responsible for the incident should be held accountable. If some kind of blame game starts, the realities will be covered up andthen the pain will be much deeper than anybody can imagine. Therefore the investigation should be followed to the end so that any attempt of a cover up can be avoided. In this matter responsibility is on the side of the government, but the mass media also has a critical role to watch over the process.
The level of democracy in Turkey makes us believe that the incident will be investigated promptly. From that perspective, the painful incident can be a chance to deepen the belief in democratic values which encompass the accountability of governing parties and the oversight role of society.