|Part of the Kurdish–Turkish conflict|
|Date||December 28, 2011|
9:37 pm (UTC+02:00)
|Executed by||Turkish Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon|
The Roboski airstrike, also known as the Uludere airstrike or the Sirnak massacre, took place in Turkish Kurdistan on December 28, 2011, near the Iraq-Turkey border, when the Turkish Air Force bombed a group of civilians (including children), killing 34.
A group of 40 Kurdish villagers were moving on the night of December 28, 2011, from Iraqi territory towards the Turkish border. They were mostly teenagers, mostly of Turkish nationality, from Ortasu (in Kurdish: Roboskî) and Gülyazı villages in Uludere district of Şırnak Province, Turkey. They were smuggling cigarettes, diesel oil and other goods into Turkey, packed on mules.
Turkish Armed Forces (TAF) had received information about activities in the region on the night of December 28, which was supplied by United States intelligence services based on a U.S. drone flight. The TAF reviewed the footage from unmanned aerial vehicles flying over the terrain, and evaluated the smugglers as a group of militants of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK). Pentagon officials were quoted as saying that American drones initially spotted the group, but after alerting the Turks and offering to conduct more detailed surveillance they were denied and "Turkish officers instead directed the Americans who were remotely piloting the drone to fly it somewhere else." Two F-16 Fighting Falcons of the Turkish Air Force bombed the area. This happened after they received the information that evening from the U.S. IAI Heron drone, as stated by a survivor, Servet Encü.
The next morning, relatives searched for the missing people, and found the bodies of the victims. 34 people belonging to the group were killed during and shortly after the airstrike. Two smugglers escaped to Iraq. Only one survivor, Servet Encü, returned to his village. 28 of the dead were from the Encü family. The bodies, some of them burnt beyond recognition or dismembered, were transported to their hometown on mules due to the rough terrain.
Servet Encü stated that generations of people in his village and neighboring settlements had been in the smuggling business due to financial need. He added that Iraqi traders brought diesel oil or tea by vehicles to within 2–3 km (1.2–1.9 mi) of the border, and the villagers bought the goods and brought them home on trails, which took about two and a half hours. He said that the smuggling action had been well known to the border security forces.
The funeral of the victims, following an autopsy performed at the Uludere hospital, took place at a newly established cemetery between the villages Ortasu and Gülyazı. The funeral convoy, formed by about 1,000 vehicles and attended by a crowd of about 10,000 people, covered the distance of 20 km (12 mi) between the district center and the cemetery in one hour.
Major protests followed in Turkey's predominantly Kurdish cities. In Diyarbakır, protests turned violent with police using batons and tear gas against protesters who threw stones and Molotov cocktails at police. Protests were also held in Ankara and Istanbul, where over 1,000 protesters gathered in Taksim Square; they threw stones at police and smashed vehicles before police dispersed the crowds with tear gas and water cannons.
District governor Naif Yavuz, who was at the autopsy and the funeral service, later paid a condolence visit to the houses of the relatives of the victims. Shortly after his visit, he was attacked by a mob, which attempted to lynch him. He escaped the attack with the help of his security guards, and was hospitalized for his injuries. The attack was made by people from outside the village.
In Nicosia, around 300 Kurdish Cypriots marched on the Turkish embassy in Northern Cyprus, where Murat Kanatlı, head of the left-wing New Cyprus Party, spoke to the crowd and accused Turkey of escalating tensions in the country's southeast. The demonstration ended peacefully.
In Erbil, Iraq, the killings were protested by some 500 Iraqi Kurds, some of whom clashed with Iraqi Kurdistan security forces; no casualties were reported. Some protesters carried pictures of Abdullah Öcalan and chanted "fight, fight for freedom" and "Erdogan is a terrorist". At the protest, Kurdish activist Ali Mahmoud told the press that "The crime ... is a real genocide, a war crime and a crime against humanity, and breaches international laws, we demand that Turkey be judged in the international courts."
Bahoz Erdal, the leader of the PKK's military wing, called for a Kurdish uprising in response to the incident: "We urge the people of Kurdistan... to react after this massacre and seek a settling of accounts through uprisings." Meanwhile, Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) leader Selahattin Demirtaş released a statement claiming that "It’s clearly a massacre of civilians, of whom the oldest is 20," but he called for Kurds to respond through democratic means. He also quoted Erdoğan on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad: "A leader who kills his own people has lost his legitimacy" and said "now I say the same thing back to him."
Prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan made assurances that essential administrative and judicial investigations were initiated. Hüseyin Çelik, the deputy chairman and spokesman of the ruling party AK Party, announced that the families of the victims would be compensated constituting a "material apology". He added that a verbal apology could follow after incident's details were uncovered.
The Republican People's Party (CHP), Turkey's largest opposition party, sharply criticized what they perceived as the government's attempt to portray the incident as understandable collateral damage, with Kurdish CHP deputy Sezgin Tanrikulu saying that "If there are some who think that death of these innocents is just a natural result of the struggle against terror, it means that Turkey has already been divided on moral grounds."
In a MetroPOLL public opinion survey of 1,174 Turkish people, 14.5% said the state was ultimately responsible for the deaths, 11.5% said the smugglers, 9.5% said the PKK, 5.4% said the prime minister of the government and 4.9% said it was the General Staff. When asked whether the government had fulfilled its responsibilities towards the incident, some 45% said yes, with 38.1% saying no.
On March 22, 2013, a special investigative commission at the Turkish Grand National Assembly found that there had been no deliberate intent by the officials involved. On January 7, 2014, a criminal investigation against the state officials concluded with a plea of negligence. Various charges were also pressed against the civilians and families of the deceased, some of which ended in sentences against individuals.
Against officials involved
On January 9, 2012, the commander of the Gülyazı military border post near Roboski, Gendarmerie Colonel Hüseyin Onur Güney, was suspended from duty following a military investigation. 17 active duty army staff were also prosecuted for allowing border smuggling.
On January 9, 2012, a special commission to investigate the Uludere airstrike was established at the Turkish Grand National Assembly. During the hearings, opposition MPs complained that the Ministry of Defence declined to answer questions and used the confidentiality order taken by the prosecutors office as an excuse. On March 22, 2013, the commission submitted an 85-page report which concluded that the military operation which ended with 34 civilian casualties was without deliberate intent. Three members of the commission from the opposition parties lodged a minute of dissent to the report, mainly criticising the lack of thorough investigation.
The criminal investigation was administered by the Diyarbakır State Prosecutor's Office. Prosecutors admitted to being delayed while waiting for documents they had demanded from the office of Chief of General Staff, which were needed before they could interrogate military personnel. Despite the limitations, prosecutors were able to confirm on August 6, 2012, that the villagers were clearly discernible from the footage of the unmanned aerial vehicle taken before the airstrike. The Wall Street Journal reported that it was a U.S. drone that spotted the group on the Iraqi border. On June 11, 2013, the Diyarbakır Prosecutor's Office, after investigating the case for more than 18 months, found negligence rather than deliberate intent by the military staff. They then declared a lack of jurisdiction and transferred the investigation to the military prosecutor.
On January 7, 2014, military prosecutors (the General Staff Military Prosecutor's Office) decided to not press charges (nolle prosequi) against the military personnel, citing that no investigation was necessary for suspected military staff İlhan Bölük, Yıldırım Güvenç, Aygün Eker, Halil Erkek and Ali Rıza Kuğu as "they committed a major error but performed their duties within the given orders".
Previously, on May 23, 2012, then Minister of Interior İdris Naim Şahin stated that the authorisation for the operation had been given at the air forces command centre in Ankara. On January 7, 2014, it was reported that the Chief of General Staff, Necdet Özel, had authorised the operation approximately 90 minutes before the first strike. In January 2012 the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) filed a lawsuit against the Turkish government at the International Criminal Court (ICC). In December 2013 the ICC ruled it won't accept the lawsuit, since Turkey has not signed the Rome Statute.
Regarding civilians and families of the deceased
On January 16, 2012, survivors Davut, Servet and Hacı Encü were tried on passport law abuse, illegal border-crossing and smuggling charges.
On June 28, 2012, six months after the airstrike, NGO members and relatives of the deceased who intended to protest at the site of the deaths were subjected to police violence and were dispersed by pressurised water cannons. On 25 December 2012, four days before the anniversary of the airstrike, the police detained 19 individuals in and around Sirnak.
Among the relatives of the deceased, Ferhat Encü, who lost 11 relatives in the airstrike, has been subject to continuous harassment by the police, reportedly being taken into custody four times on the same charge. He later became a member of parliament for the Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) but was dismissed and jailed for 10 months following a speech in parliament in which he condemned the Roboski airstrike. Encü was prosecuted and sentenced for terrorist propaganda was released after 10 months.
- Concerns raised about obscuring evidence in Uludere killings Archived 2013-12-21 at the Wayback Machine
- "The Kurds and Turkey: Massacre at Uludere". The Economist. June 9, 2012. Archived from the original on August 5, 2012. Retrieved July 25, 2012.
- "US Defense: "No comment about intelligence in Roboski massacre", Turkey denies report on U.S. help". Ekurd.net. Archived from the original on May 28, 2012. Retrieved July 25, 2012.
- "Reuters, "Turkey strike kills 35, Kurds decry "massacre" Hindustan Times, December 29, 2011". Archived from the original on January 28, 2012.
- "Sirnak Massacre, December 29, 2011. Kurdish American Society, 2011-12-29. In an attack on Wednesday December 29, 2011, in the Kurdish area between Turkey and Iraq, Turkish airplanes killed 35 Kurdish armed smugglers near Uludere in Sirnak province. Once again, with the pretext of "fighting the PKK terrorists," Kurdish smugglers have lost their lives. http://www.usakurds.org/index.php?sid=16&location=main Archived 2012-01-12 at the Wayback Machine
- "CDK strongly condemns Sirnak Massacre (The Kurdish Observer), 29 December 2011".[permanent dead link]
- Beaumont, Peter (December 29, 2011). "Turkish air strikes kill dozens of smugglers near Iraq border". The Guardian. London. Archived from the original on October 1, 2013. Retrieved January 2, 2012.
- "State crime in Turkey: the Roboski Massacre". openDemocracy. Retrieved May 7, 2020.
- "Uludere'de Sağ Kurtulan Encü Anlattı". Aktif Haber (in Turkish). January 2, 2012. Archived from the original on January 8, 2012. Retrieved January 6, 2012.
- "Questions grow over Uludere intel failure". Hürriyet Daily News. Archived from the original on December 30, 2013. Retrieved January 6, 2012.
- "35 Tabuta Kilometrelerce Gözyaşı". Haberler (in Turkish). December 30, 2011. Archived from the original on January 8, 2012. Retrieved January 7, 2012.
- Entous, Adam; Parkinson, Joe (May 16, 2012). "Turkey's Attack on Civilians Tied to U.S. Military Drone". The Wall Street Journal. Archived from the original on December 28, 2017. Retrieved December 28, 2012.
- "ABD'den Uludere İtirafı". Hürriyet. May 16, 2012. Archived from the original on September 2, 2012. Retrieved December 28, 2012.
- "The Kurds and Turkey – Massacre at Uludere". The Economist. June 9, 2012. Retrieved January 16, 2020.
- "Uludere apology may follow compensation". Hürriyet Daily News. Archived from the original on January 1, 2014. Retrieved January 6, 2012.
- (in Dutch) Along the borders of Turkey; Between two fires: Iraq Archived 2018-12-29 at the Wayback Machine VPRO, 4 November 2012
- "Rudaw in English The Happening: Latest News and Multimedia about Kurdistan, Iraq and the World - Kurds Mourn Victims of Turkish Air Strike". Archived from the original on February 13, 2012. Retrieved January 8, 2012.
- "Kurdish Protesters Clash With Turkish Authorities Over Civilian Deaths | Middle East | English". Archived from the original on January 8, 2012. Retrieved January 8, 2012.
- Demo held in Ankara over airstrike in SE - Tehran Times Archived 2012-02-04 at the Wayback Machine
- "Kurds protest over deadly Turkey air raid - Europe - Al Jazeera English". Archived from the original on January 7, 2012. Retrieved January 8, 2012.
- "Uludere Kaymakamı 'linç girişimi'ni anlattı". Radikal (in Turkish). January 1, 2012. Retrieved January 7, 2012.
- "Turkish Cypriots and Kurds demonstrate - Cyprus Mail". Archived from the original on January 10, 2012. Retrieved January 8, 2012.
- "PressTV - Iranian Kurds protest Turkey air raid". Archived from the original on January 8, 2012. Retrieved January 8, 2012.
- "Turkey pledges airstrikes inquiry". The Irish Times. Archived from the original on January 4, 2012. Retrieved January 9, 2012.
- "Kurdish rebels call for an uprising in Turkey after dozens killed in an air strike". Archived from the original on January 7, 2012. Retrieved January 9, 2012.
- Graeme Wood, "A Turkish Assad?" New York Times (blog), January 1, 2012, http://newsfeed.time.com/2011/12/12/recep-tayyip-erdogan-peoples-choice-for-times-2011-person-of-the-year/ Archived 2012-05-30 at the Wayback Machine
- Arsu, Sebnem (December 30, 2011). "Kurds Protest Airstrike Killing Dozens in Turkey". The New York Times. Archived from the original on March 31, 2017. Retrieved February 28, 2017.
- "Majority of Turks support education in mother tongue". Archived from the original on March 27, 2012. Retrieved March 27, 2012.
- Timeline: What happened in Roboski? Archived 2013-12-25 at the Wayback Machine.
-  Archived 2014-01-07 at the Wayback Machine. Bianet. 9 January 2012.
-  Archived 2014-01-07 at the Wayback Machine Bianet. 11 January 2012.
-  Archived 2014-01-07 at the Wayback Machine Ayça Söylemez. Bianet. 5 April 2012.
-  Archived 2014-01-07 at the Wayback Machine Bianet. 22 March 2013.
-  Archived 2014-01-07 at the Wayback Machine Full text of the Investigative Commission Report on Uludere. Retrieved on 7 January 2014.
-  Archived 2014-01-07 at the Wayback Machine Ertuğrul Kürkçü. Retrieved on 7 January 2014.
-  Archived 2014-01-07 at the Wayback Machine Atilla Kaya. Retrieved on 7 January 2014.
-  Archived 2014-01-07 at the Wayback Machine Levent Gök. Retrieved on 7 January 2014.
- "The Military Officials Not Interrogated" Archived 2014-01-07 at the Wayback Machine, Bianet. 25 May 2012.
-  Archived 2014-01-07 at the Wayback Machine Bianet. 29 May 2012.
- Prosecutor Confirms Villagers Could Be Discerned in UAV Footages, Bianet. 6 August 2012 Archived 7 January 2014 at the Wayback Machine.
- Diyarbakır Prosecutor's Office refers Uludere case to military Archived 2014-01-07 at the Wayback Machine. Today's Zaman. 11 June 2013.
- Ayça Söylemez. 7 January 2014. "Nolle Prosequi in Roboski Massacre Case", Bianet Archived 7 January 2014 at the Wayback Machine.
-  Archived 2014-01-07 at the Wayback Machine Anadolu Agency. 7 January 2014.
- Full scan of the 15-page nolle prosequi decision by the General Staff Military Prosecutor's Office Archived 2014-01-07 at the Wayback Machine (in Turkish). Retrieved on 7 January 2014.
-  Archived 2014-01-07 at the Wayback Machine Bianet. 23 May 2012.
- Genelkurmay Başkanı Necdet Özel, Roboski'ye onayı evinden vermiş! Archived 2014-01-07 at the Wayback Machine T24. 7 January 2014.
- "BDP applied to ICC to investigate on Roboski massacre - NEW". ANF News. Retrieved January 29, 2020.
- "ICC turns down Roboski application". ANF News. Retrieved January 29, 2020.
-  Archived 2014-01-07 at the Wayback Machine Bianet. 16 January 2012.
-  Archived 2014-01-07 at the Wayback Machine Bianet 28 June 2012.
- Ekin Karaca, Police Detains 19 in Sirnak, Days Before Massacre Anniversary Archived 2014-01-07 at the Wayback Machine, Bianet. 25 December 2012.
- Ayça Söylemez. Roboski Victims’ Relative Seeks Compensation After Four Detentions Archived 2014-01-07 at the Wayback Machine, Bianet. 24 July 2012.
- (in Turkish) Şırnak election results Archived 2018-12-28 at the Wayback Machine Karar.com, 24 June 2018
- Sassounian, Harut (November 20, 2018). "Kurdish Member of Turkish Parliament Jailed after Harsh Speech". The Armenian Weekly. Retrieved October 18, 2020.
- TM. "Former HDP deputy Ferhat Encü released from prison - Turkish Minute". Retrieved October 18, 2020.