GÜLYAZI – The families of the 34 boys and young men killed last week in a bombing by the Turkish air force, will not consider accepting the compensation the Turkish government is offering them. Prime Minister Erdogan announced on Tuesday that within a few days he would pay the families of the men, who were smuggling across the Iraqi border when the bombing started.. Zahide Encü, who lost her 15 year old son: ‘First they bomb my son to pieces and then they offer money? We don’t want money; we want to know what happened.’
The mourning period isn’t over yet in the village of Gülyazi, where 25 of the 34 killed boys and men come from. The other nine are from the nearby village of Roboski, also in the district of Uludere. One of the smugglers was severely injured and is in hospital – he is already counted among the dead. One man survived.
The Turkish government wants to pay 20,000 Turkish Lira (about 8,000 euros) per person killed. Survivor Servet Encü (35): ‘The government knows the people are poor here. That’s why they think they can make things good again with a bag of money. But that’s not how it works. I’d rather eat grass than accept money from this government.’
Zahide Encü (45, photo) has six children, including two sons. The oldest, now 26, stepped on a landmine while gathering wood eight years ago and can no longer contribute to the family income. Now the youngest, Aslan, is dead too. ‘How will we make a living now? I don’t know. No, I didn’t consider for one second accepting Erdogan’s money. I trust in God to help us.’
The villagers say that they will not accept an investigation into what happened from any party in Turkey. A human rights commission of the European Union should lead an investigation, they say. But they don’t think the Turkish government would give permission for such an independent inquiry.
What exactly happened last week remains a mystery. The Turkish government for now is calling it an ‘accident’ and has promised a thorough investigation, but the villagers won’t buy it. Survivor Servet Encü: ‘Everybody knew there was smuggling going on, including the police and security forces. The village head even got a phone call from the commander whenever air or ground operations were planned, and then we wouldn’t go out. The month before was so quiet on the route that we went again with bigger groups and with more donkeys. And then suddenly on the way back all roads were closed and the bombing started.’
From smuggling a family can earn a monthly income of 600 to 700 lira, which is enough to survisve on in a village. There is hardly any other work: large parts of the province are restricted military areas, or there are landmines which make herding cattle impossible. There are no factories. Children help earn the family income – so, starting at age 13 or 14, the children also join the smuggling.
Ironically enough the age that kids start smuggling has gone down. Eight year old Sinan will go for he first time next week, when the mourning period is over, in place of his brother Sivan (13), who was among those killed. Two hours to cross over the boarder, two hours back, will he be able to manage that? Sinan: ‘On the way to the border I can ride a donkey.’