Police have arrested the main suspect in the killing of seven members of the Dedeoğulları family, four women and three men aged between 30 and 65.
Mehmet Altun had gone on the run and was eventually caught in Bozkır district, some 120 km from where the horrific mass shooting had taken place.
Emergency services were alerted to an incident at the Dedeoğulları family home on Özşahin Sokak, Hasanköy, in the Meram district of Konya, at around 7pm on 30 July. They rushed to the property where they found the bodies of seven people, all shot dead.
The deceased were named as Yaşar Dedeoğulları (65), Barış Dedeoğulları (35), Metin Dedeoğulları (45), İpek Dedeoğulları (57) Serap Dedeoğulları (36), Serpil Dedeoğulları (32), and Sibel Dedeoğulları (30).
After the shooting, Altun (33) had allegedly tried to set the property on fire before leaving, escaping the clutches of law enforcement officers for six days. He was eventually found hiding in a cemetery in Bozkır, armed with a handgun and 18 bullets.
Following his arrest, the murder suspect was taken to Konya Courthouse under heavy guard where he was charged with the deliberate killing of seven people, damaging property by burning, violating the immunity of residence, and violating law 6136 of the Turkish penal code relating to the use of weapons.
A further ten people were arrested immediately after the killings for questioning. They included Altun’s big sister Ayşe Keleş and his brother-in-law Lütfi Keleş, who remains in custody.
A pitched battle between the feuding clans in May had left 13 people injured and led to six people being arrested.
Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu had initially claimed the tragedy was the outcome of a long-running feud between the Dedeoğulları family and another family in their neighbourhood that had spanned the best part of a decade.
In a live television interview, the Minister emphatically denied claims the massacre was racist in intent, stating “There is absolutely no basis in the claims that this [incident] is a Turkish-Kurdish issue”. He also criticised those trying to present the deaths in such a way, claiming this was “as dangerous as this attack itself”.
— Süleyman Soylu (@suleymansoylu) July 30, 2021
Others have disputed Minister Soylu’s version of events, asserting that the killing of the Dedeoğulları family was a hate crime because they were Kurds.
Friends and neighbours told local press and politicians that the family had endured harassment for years because of their ethnicity. The Dedeoğulları family were threatened in May when they were told, “We are nationalists, we will not let you live here.”
The pro-Kurdish opposition Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) slammed Parliament’s Human Rights Committee for cancelling a fact-finding visit to the scene of the crime on 2 August, and also accused the government of misleading the public over claims the murders were due to a feud.
“Our party is of the opinion that the visit was cancelled because it was revealed that the massacre was a hate crime,” HDP said.
A statement by HDP Group Deputy Chairman Meral Danış Beştaş said:
“With the propaganda they [the Turkish government and officials] have been making since yesterday [30 July], they are trying to spread that this is the enmity between the two families. However, the funeral ceremony, especially the statements of the relatives and acquaintances of those who were massacred, and the information revealed clearly revealed that this incident was a racist attack targeting Kurds.
From the funeral of the seven Dedeoğulları family members
— Mehmet Ali ORTAÇ (@M_AliOrtac) July 31, 2021
“The Commission has made an assessment. They did some research there and saw that if they went, they would have to write it in the report, so they cancelled the trip.
“The main duty of the Human Rights Commission is to investigate the violations of rights in Turkey, to identify them on the spot and to inform the relevant institutions. It is both supervisory and to give informative. However, the Human Rights Commission did not fulfil its function in any way. They didn’t deliver today either.
“If they will not even go to Konya, if they will not go to such a major incident where the right to life has been destroyed by such a massacre, we cannot say that this commission has a practical function.
“We think that this cancellation is strictly aimed at preventing the [full facts] of this incident from coming to light.”
After the funeral of the seven Dedeoğulları family members
— Heval (@Ez_Ramann) August 2, 2021