The funeral of Hatun Tuğluk, mother of HDP (the Peoples’ Democratic Party) co-leader Aysel Tuğluk, on Wednesday was marred after a racist group of some 25 people, who had turned up at the cemetery in Ankara determined to prevent the burial. Their hostile intervention resulted in the family removing the body, which was reburied in Tunceli, 360 miles away.
Hatun Tuğluk had passed away on September 13 in Ankara at the age of 78. Her wishes were to be buried in the Turkish capital. After a service at the Ergazi Pir Sultan Cemevi (a place of worship for Alevis), her body was brought to Gölbaşı İncek Cemetery to be laid to rest.
Aysel Tuğluk, a pro-Kurdish lawyer who has previously represented PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan and who remains in prison on remand for the past nine months accused of supporting terrorism, was given special permission to attend her mother’s funeral. Also present were fellow HDP MPs: co-chair Serpil Kemalbay, Osman Baydemir, Ayhan Bilgen, politician Ahmet Türk, and many other friends and family.
When the coffin arrived at Gölbaşı İncek Cemetery, a group of men who had already assembled there started to shout racist and nationalist slogans, as well as to verbally abuse mourners. Stones were also thrown and some were seen armed with wooden bats, according to HDP Spokesman Osman Baydemir.
One man reportedly shouted: “Bodies of martrys lie here. We won’t allow any terrorist to be buried here. This is no Armenian cemetery”.
Ağrı Mayor Sırrı Sakık, who had been forced out of his position by the Ministry of Interior, told media that the angry mob had chanted: “We won’t let Kurds, Alevis, Armenians be buried here. If you do, we’ll remove them and tear them apart”.
After noticing a tractor on stand-by, the Tuğluk’s family decided to exhume the body as a precaution. The coffin was returned to the Cemevi, before travelling to Tunceli (also known as Dersim), in the east of Turkey, the next day for a fresh burial. The authorities refused permission for Aysel Tuğluk to attend the second funeral.
The intimidation of mourners, which ran for over an hour in full view of the police, and subsequent events has been widely condemned.
“Of all the fascist and racist attacks I have witnessed in my life, yesterday was probably the most disgusting.”
Osman Baydemir said, “Of all the fascist and racist attacks I have witnessed in my life, yesterday [Wednesday] was probably the most disgusting.”
Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, leader of the opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), called it a “fascist attack”, adding that: “We are losing our humanity. They [the AKP authorities] are governing this country with hostility, grudge, rage and tension”.
Presidential Spokesperson İbrahim Kalın also condemned the incident: “On behalf of the presidency, I would like to express that we condemn this incident in the clearest way. It is not possible to accept this inhuman attitude. This is an ugly approach that never matches our beliefs, values, culture and values of civilization.”
Following the national outcry, AKP Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu, who had visited the Ankara cemetery following the failed burial to reassure the family the interned body would be safe, announced that police had launched an investigation and were seeking the culprits behind the attack.
Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdağ also condemned what had happened during Tuğluk’s funeral, calling it “unacceptable”, adding that those found guilty will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.
That did not pacify many members of the public given eyewitness statements. One HDP politician who was present, Ağrı MP Dilan Dirayet Taşdemir, told media that after the body was exhumed the police took attackers to see the empty grave. This and the mob’s prior awareness of the funeral and their preparedness prompted many to suggest they had colluded with the authorities.
The events at Gölbaşı İncek Cemetery drew comparisons with another ugly incident at the start of the year. Fashion designer Barbaros Şansal was forcefully – and many argue illegally – deported from North Cyprus after posting an insulting video on New Year’s Eve that slammed the authorities for the growing chauvinism, corruption and depravity in Turkey. Upon arriving at Atatürk Airport in Istanbul under armed guard, he was physically assaulted on the runway by men in uniform. His lynching was filmed by fellow passengers and the clip went viral, prompting global denunciation of the incident.