Probe finds cemevi victim killed by policeman, Alevis call for calm, unity
An investigation launched into the killing of Uğur Kurt, an Alevi citizen, in the garden of a cemevi in İstanbul's Okmeydanı neighborhood last week has found that a pistol that fired a bullet that eventually killed Kurt belongs to a police officer, while Alevi leaders called on their community to preserve their common sense and efforts for unity.

Interior Minister Efkan Ala told a TV program on Thursday afternoon that "it is possible to say that a pistol that killed Uğur Kurt has been determined." Ala did not elaborate further, saying any word he would say on the issue might violate the secrecy of the ongoing investigation. "Regardless of who is behind this incident [killing of Uğur], we will do whatever is necessary," the minister added.

Kurt was hit by a bullet as he waited outside a cemevi to attend a funeral service on May 22, later dying in hospital. The incident occurred after a group of 10-15 people began chanting anti-government slogans in the neighborhood, protesting the death of a youth in earlier clashes with police as well as the May 13 mining disaster, in which 301 people died.

Police fired tear gas to disperse the protesters, who were throwing Molotov cocktails and stones. Video footage shows one policeman firing a pistol into the air next to an armored police vehicle that had been set on fire with Molotov cocktails.

An investigation was launched to find Kurt's murderer. Prosecutors ordered an examination of 14 pistols to see whether the bullet that killed Kurt was fired by a policeman.

Also on Thursday, news reports said a ballistic examination discovered that the bullet belonged to one of those pistols and it was fired by a police officer. The İstanbul Chief Public Prosecutor's Office reportedly asked the İstanbul Governor's Office to allow prosecutors to launch an investigation into the officer.

Earlier this week, some eyewitnesses spoke to the Turkish media about Kurt's shooting and claimed that they saw a police officer shooting directly at the cemevi from a distance away.

One eyewitness, Yusuf Gülen, told the Bugün daily on Tuesday that he had seen a police officer shooting directly at the cemevi. He said the officer had been only 20 meters away from the cemevi. "There was no protest or incident around the cemevi. But a police officer aimed his pistol at the cemevi and shot four times," he claimed. Gülen also said prosecutors and police had not heard testimony from eyewitnesses to the shooting, adding that he was ready to testify.

Hasan T., another eyewitness, said he had been only five meters away from the policeman who shot at the cemevi. "The policeman aimed his pistol at the cemevi and fired. There were no protests or protesters in the area," he stated.

The working-class neighborhood of Okmeydanı, near the center of the city, is frequently the scene of protests, largely by left-wing activists.

Ayhan Yılmaz (42) also died on May 23 after being wounded by a homemade grenade during clashes between demonstrators and police in Okmeydanı. Seven police officers and several civilians were injured in the ensuing clashes.

Alevis emphasize unity in meeting

Community leaders and academics from an Alevi background who convened for a meeting on Wednesday evening cautioned that some political leaders are engaged in efforts to foment tension between Turkey's Alevi and Sunni populations and said Alevis will preserve their common sense and are calling for unity despite the challenges.

Çerağ Alevi Bektaşi Education and Culture Association Chairwoman Gülnaz Güneş Aykaş delivered a speech at the event in which she said some politicians are pinning their hopes for popularity on potential tension between Alevi and Sunni citizens, which makes many people worry about the peace and stability of the country.

Aykaş also condemned the killing of Kurt. According to the chairwoman, Kurt was an innocent citizen who was waiting outside a cemevi to attend a relative's funeral, but he became victim of a violent attack. "Killing a man in a cemevi is a sin as big as killing a man inside the Kabah [Islam's holiest site]. Killing a man in a cemevi is an attack on the identity of Alevis," she noted, and added that Alevis must remain calm and quiet despite the killing of Kurt. "We have to protect our unity. We have no other remedy [to heal our wounds]. Otherwise, we will make it easier for those who wish to divide us. I wish you peace, fraternity and social order despite all the challenges," the chairwoman added.

Baki Güngör, a dede, or Alevi religious leader, at the Bağcılar cemevi also made a call for unity and fraternity among the Alevi and Sunni populations while extending his condolences to the family of Kurt. "We want to live in fraternity. We want unity and solidarity to dominate our country. We want to live in unity with all Turkish, Kurdish, Laz, Armenian and Circassian populations," he stated.

Anatolian Alevi-Bektaşi Federation head Cengiz Hortoğlu said last week's clashes between the police and anti-government protesters and the killing of Kurt in Okmeydanı were part of efforts to stir chaos in the country through provocation.

According to Hortoğlu, there were masked assailants in Okmeydanı at the time of the protests to provoke the people. He said he believed those masked people hid their identities upon orders coming from some unknown sources and wanted to provoke the society against Alevis by attacking the police. "They want to make people take to the streets by attacking the lives and values of Alevis," he stated.

Earlier this week, the Republican People's Party (CHP) drew attention to the existence of masked people in Okmeydanı during clashes between the police and protesters, raising a question as to whether those people could have been sent to the area by the National Intelligence Organization (MİT) or someone else to provoke people.

However, Hortoğlu said, efforts to draw Alevis into an atmosphere of clashes and chaos are doomed to fail. "We will never give up our aspirations for stronger democracy despite all the attacks on our right to live and values."

He also said Turkey's governments have so far lent a deaf ear to the demands of the Alevi community, adding that the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government, too, has failed to take any concrete steps to meet Alevi demands. "We believe that we are treated unfairly. We are not second-class citizens of this country. We are not minorities, either. We are equal citizens of this country. The state should put an end to its discriminative policies against Alevis," he added.

(Cihan/Today's Zaman) CİHAN
Last Modified: 2014-05-29 17:00:02
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