Kurdish man shot at Diyarbakir Newroz killed ‘execution style’

The moment Kemal Kurkut is shot by Turkish police in Diyarbakir in the early hours of the morning on 21 March 2017, (c) Dihaber

Reaction to the killing of Kemal Kurkut, a young Kurdish man who was shot dead by police in Diyarbakir before the launch of the Newroz celebration on 21 March, continue.

Critics have called the shooting an ‘execution-style’ and ‘extra-judicial’ killing and said the young man could have been apprehended without being shot.

According to initial statements by officials, Kurkut, a fine arts student at Malatya University, was a suicide bomber and had threatened to blow himself up. However, photos have now emerged showing the young man naked from the waist up and running away from police as he was shot.

Series of photos showing Kemal Kurkut’s shooting (Abdurrahman Gok/Dihaber).

Claims Kurkut was a suicide bomber

In a statement made on the day of the incident, the local governorate had said Kurkut told police, “there’s a bomb in my bag.” Photos show the student was carrying a knife but did not have a bag with him.

Following publication of the of photos by Dihaber news agency, Diyarbakir Governor Huseyin Aksoy made a new statement saying:

“As we said in our previous statement the suspect was carrying a knife and said he had a bomb in his bag. Security forces had to take into consideration the people attending Nevruz and intervened. It is an unfortunate incident and is being investigated.”

Travelled to celebrate Newroz

A relative of the young man told the BBC Turkish Service that he had travelled by train from nearby city Malatya to Diyarbakir to celebrate the Kurdish New Year and there was no way he could be a suicide bomber.

“He experienced a psychological problem recently but was treated. His mother and brother were always looking out for him. But he didn’t tell them he was travelling to Diyarbakir. He left a note on his door saying, ‘I’m sleeping, don’t disturb me’ the night before. Kemal never harmed anyone. He wasn’t apolitical but he wasn’t a suicide bomber or someone who could harm police. We don’t know what happened at the police checkpoint, but maybe he didn’t accept being strip-searched.”

Civilian clothed policeman fired on man

Dihaber reporter Abdurrahman Gok, who recorded the images of Kurkut’s shooting, told the BBC Turkish Service that a civilian clothed policeman had shot the man while other officers had fired in the air.

Gok said police had forced other journalists who had recorded the incident to delete images but that he had hidden his memory card.

Eyewitnesses said an ambulance had arrived after 25 minutes but that Kurkut had already died before he could be taken to hospital.

No water, no burial place

Kurkut’s body was taken to Malatya’s Battalgazi district on Wednesday for burial.

According to Turkish news site Ilerihaber, the district’s municipality workers cut the water at the morgue so the man’s corpse could not be washed.

Officials of the municipality, administered by the ruling Justice and Development (AKP) Party, told Kurkut’s family that they would not be allowed to bury the man in the cemetery and would not be provided with a vehicle to carry the coffin and a tent for mourners.

The young man’s uncle, Yusuf Kurkut, told reporters:

“They prevented the funeral car from coming here three times. We got a burial place but they blocked that too. Yesterday we agreed on getting a tent from the municipality but now they won’t give it to us. All of these decisions are political. We could have carried him on our shoulders. Are we from another country? We are from these lands too.”