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Turkey to Investigate Images of Dead Kurdish Man Being Dragged

OCT. 5, 2015

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    Responding to outrage on social networks, Turkey’s prime minister, Ahmet Davutoglu, ordered an investigation into images that appeared to show the body of a Kurdish activist being dragged along the streets of a town in the country’s southeast, where Turkish security forces battled Kurdish militants late last week.

    The prime minister’s announcement, posted on Facebook early Monday, came after graphic images of the episode last week in the province of Sirnak were widely shared on social networks, including by Selahattin Demirtas, the co-chairman of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party, or H.D.P.

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    Bu fotoğrafa iyi bakın. Önceki gün Şırnak'ta çekildi. Kimse unutmasın, biz unutmayacağız çünkü. pic.twitter.com/ZrK6Z0cynk

    — Selahattin Demirtaş (@hdpdemirtas) Oct. 4, 2015
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    #Demirtaş: Look at this photo very well. It was taken in Şırnak the day before. Nobody should forget about this photo, because we will not.

    — HDP English (@HDPenglish) Oct. 4, 2015

    The opposition H.D.P. identified the dead man as Haci Lokman Birlik, 24, an actor and brother-in-law of a member of Parliament for the party, Leyla Birlik. The circumstances of his death were described very differently by the government and opposition activists.

    According to the prime minister, he was killed “while attacking the police with a rocket launcher” during clashes between the security forces and militants from the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, which Turkey and the United States consider a terrorist group.

    The H.D.P. had a different explanation, asserting on its English-language Twitter feed that Mr. Birlik was “executed by police” on Friday as the security forces tried to fill in trenches that Sirnak residents had dug to keep the police out.

    After the H.D.P. gained representation in Turkey’s Parliament, a first for any Kurdish party, in elections in June, a two-year cease-fire collapsed between the Turkish government and rebels of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or P.K.K. With new elections expected next month, Mr. Demirtas has accused the government of inciting violence against Kurds to win over nationalist voters and push his party out of Parliament.

    Government supporters initially argued on social networks that the first image of the episode to appear online was fake, and even resorted to airbrushing the man’s body out of the photo.

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    Photoshop ile fotoğraftaki cesedi silenler, terörist bile olsa bir ölüye zulmedenler kadar alçaktır pic.twitter.com/NMoe1YP0FG

    — Nedim Şener (@nedimsener2010) Oct. 4, 2015

    That theory seemed to collapse, however, after leaked video of the man’s body being dragged along the pavement, apparently recorded from inside the police vehicle, was also published online. Although that video was subsequently removed from social networks for violating policies against graphic or disgusting imagery, copies of the clip were preserved by opposition activists and politicians, including Tuncay Ozkan of the secularist Republican People’s Party, or C.H.P.

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    Bu görüntüde gördüklerimizin PKK'nın yaptıklarından farkı ne? Lanetliyorum. Bunu yapanlar derhal görevden alınmalı. pic.twitter.com/g6gWrilEsw

    — Tuncay ÖZKAN (@ATuncayOzkan) Oct. 4, 2015

    Mr. Demirtas of the H.D.P. called for the interior minister to resign, and there were signs that the government’s investigation might not satisfy the opposition. Ayla Jean Yackley of Reuters reported later on Monday that the prime minister wanted investigators to determine how images of the man’s body had been leaked, not why it had been dragged through the street.

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    #Turkish PM Davutoglu says officials to probe how images of alleged PKK militant dragged thru street by police were leaked, not event itself

    — Ayla Jean Yackley (@aylajean) Oct. 5, 2015

    The importance of social networks in offering glimpses of the fighting in southeastern Turkey has been amplified by a virtual information blackout imposed by the authorities on independent reporting in the region. A viral video over the weekend demonstrated the situation in dramatic fashion. In it a police officer in plain clothes is seen pointing a gun at the head of a photographer for a Kurdish news agency as he ordered him to stop filming in the city of Diyarbakir.

    Video of the episode was recorded surreptitiously by a journalist from a local channel, Ozgur Gun TV, which posted the footage on Facebook.

    Video of Turkish Police Officer Pointing Gun at Journalist’s Head

    Silvan'daki Özel Harekatçıların Muhabirlerimize ve Özgür Basın çalışanlarına Saldırı anı#ÖzgürBasınSusturulamaz

    Posted by Özgür Gün Tv on Sunday, October 4, 2015


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